COMPANION GARDEN VISITS GUIDANCE

Thank you for offering your time to visit a person who is isolating. A check in and chat can make all the difference to someone who is living on their own at this time.

Before You Visit

  • Call the resident using the contact details provided, ensuring you withhold your number by dialling 141 before inputting their number
  • Explain you are a volunteer with Darlington Support and are responding to their request, and you are calling to arrange a visit
  • Before making any arrangements, check that the resident:
    • Does not have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or is displaying any symptoms (or, where applicable, any other persons that might be present during the visit)
    • Has a suitable area for the visit to take place where social distancing can be practiced e.g. garden, open space, yard etc
    • If the resident could not confirm any of the above, then advise that Darlington Support are not able to visit in person at the current time but we can make telephone calls and ask them if they would like for you to arrange this for them (if so, then follow Companion Calls guidance here)
  • You must also check whether the resident is shielding (i.e. they have received an NHS letter to say they are clinically ‘extremely vulnerable’). If they have received a letter and they do not live alone you should advise them that, whilst advisory, the government guidance is still for them to stay at home and minimise contact with others as much as possible and that they are still considered to be at increased risk of exposure to COVID -19. If the resident still wants a visit then you must advise your ward champion that the resident was advised about the increased risk of exposure so that this can be recorded and ensure you are extremely vigilant about maintaining social distancing / good hygiene during your visit
  • Here are some notes about how to proceed with arranging the visit:
    • Visits should be made at times that are mutually convenient to both the isolating person and yourself
    • Set a specific time length for the visit and advise your ward champion of the time and length of the visit
    • Check whether access will be required e.g. to get through to garden / yard etc. – if so inform the person to accommodate this and ensure doors are opened, access/egress is clear where possible to avoid contact with surfaces etc
    • If you have a portable chair you can take then advise them you are bringing your own seating, if not ask them to provide seating 2m away from where they will sit 

The Visit

  • Ensure guidance provided by gov.uk and Public Health is adhered to at all times includes social distancing
  • Volunteers are responsible for maintaining good hand hygiene standards at all times
  • If using a car keep the car clean and disinfect the most used surfaces such as the steering wheel, gear stick and door handles
  • On arrival at the person’s home, sanitise your hands
  • Notify the resident that you have arrived by knocking the door or ringing the doorbell, stepping back 2m
  • When the resident answers, introduce yourself and let them know that you are the volunteer with Darlington Support who rang to arrange a visit and ask them how to access the outdoor area where you’ve arranged to meet, ensuring you stay 2m away from any residents at all times
  • If using a resident’s chair ensure this is wiped using an antibacterial wipe or disinfectant spray as appropriate
  • Do not use sheds, cabins or similar outdoor structures during visit
  • During inclement weather it may not be possible to carry out visit unless a suitable open, shelter area is available
  • Do not go indoors unless you need the toilet or are passing through to access the garden. Avoid touching surfaces and if you use the toilet wash your hands thoroughly, wipe down surfaces, use separate or paper towels and wash or dispose of them safely after use
  • Sanitise hands after touching any surfaces including handles
  • Make sure you stick to the time limit you set for the visit and reinforce that your companion role is a time-limited relationship
  • Let your ward champion know once your visit has concluded and, where relevant, advise them of any issues or concerns.

The Conversation

It’s difficult to pre-empt what types of queries you are likely to get from an individual, they may need some factual information or just some reassurance during these challenging times. Contact your ward champion if you have concerns over the people you are supporting.

The person you’re supporting could be at risk of isolation for any reason, including cognitive difficulties or dementia. Be aware that when you have a conversation you may need to repeat yourself, revisit elements of the conversation or communicate more clearly than you may be used to in order to have a successful chat.

If you choose to continue to support an individual with visits or over the telephone and offer this personal act of kindness, this is a personal choice.

It is important to uphold the confidentiality of the individual at all times. You may receive/hear personal information or details through conversations, forms or other means. All forms of personal information must be treated with respect and be handled in a highly confidential way.

Some questions to help the conversation

• How are you doing today?
• Are you managing to get around the house ok?
• How are you feeling today?
• Have you managed to speak to any of your friends or family?
• What is a typical day like for you? Do you enjoy reading or watching TV?
• Are you managing to prepare your meals?
• Do you have all the medication you need?

Supporting a person living with Dementia?

Living with dementia at any time brings everyday challenges for the person and those around them. COVID-19 is making daily life much harder. People may feel anxious, scared or lonely. COVID-19 may mean that people affected by dementia are no longer able to take part in activities which supported them to live well, and their carers and families may be caring for them 24/7 with no respite.

It’s important to note that dementia isn’t a natural part of ageing and similar symptoms can be brought on by depression. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and doesn’t just cause memory problems - it can affect anything and everything the brain controls, including mood and changes in behaviour. Dementia can make individuals forget details, but they will remember the feeling of reassurance and support provided by your visit. This really will help to stop negative feelings caused by isolation.

For tips from the Alzheimer’s Society on how to better communicate with a person with dementia, please click here

The Alzheimer’s Society prepared this toolkit to provide details on how to support residents with dementia

If you would like any further information about dementia, please visit www.alzheimers.org.uk

If you are worried about the person you’re supporting and their memory, or if they inform you they are struggling with their dementia or someone they care for with dementia, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Supporting a person living with poor mental health?

Within your role you may be asked to support someone who is living with poor mental health, 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems each year and a friendly visit and chat can help individuals through this difficult time. You may not be aware of an individual’s mental health and this may not even be discussed during your conversation. One of the amazing things you can offer as a volunteer is your listening skills and try to do this a non-judgemental manner.

• Ask questions to gather information about how the person is feeling?
• Listen without interrupting and repeat what has been said to check you have understood
• Ask open questions – What, where, when, why, how?
• Show someone you understand by telling them (e.g. “I can see how that’s been hard to deal with”) and don’t make judgements about what you’re told.

You could suggest the below to promote Mental Health Wellness:

• Try and stick to a routine, go to bed and wake up at a reasonable time. Allow time throughout the day for self-care
• Try and move around and stay active, for approx. 30 minutes a day
• Try and get outside for some fresh air. It’s amazing how much fresh air can do for your spirits.
• Reach out to others, spend time speaking to friends and family.
• Stay hydrated and eat well

Potential Questions and Situations That May Arise

I’m concerned that I’m not going to see anyone for a long time.

Recognise their concerns and let them that you are here to listen them. It’s ok to go outside and meet people as long as they abide by the government guidance around social distancing.

I need some practical help, I can’t get to the shops or get my prescription.

Advise them to ring Darlington Support on 01325 978897. Alternatively, you could submit a support form here to place a request for shopping or prescription collection on their behalf.

I like talking to you, can you visit me again next week?

This is up to you. If you are happy to visit the person again then let them know and advise them of the date and approximate time, ensuring you continue to follow the guidelines. If you do not feel able to give them another call or visit then tell them ‘That’s lovely to hear, I’ve enjoyed talking with you too but I’m unable to visit frequently. I can however request another visit from a different volunteer if you would like?’ If the isolating person agrees then submit a support form here to place a request for further and/or regular visits (dependent on what the individual has asked for).

Can I take down your phone number, so I can call you if I need anything?

Politely tell the individual that you are not permitted to give out your personal contact details and if they need practical support we can offer by matching them with a suitable volunteer.

I’m lonely and I don’t have anyone I can call.

Ask who they would usually talk to/spend time with and see if they can contact any of these people via phone or arrange an outdoor meeting in line with government guidance.

I’m worried about my neighbour, can you call them if I give you their number?

At the moment we are only able to support people that have been referred to us. I would suggest your neighbour could call 01325 978897 to request help with practical support, such as shopping, or speak to their GP if they have concerns about their health and wellbeing.

I’m feeling very sad/depressed/hopeless, I think I need some help.

Talk to them to understand their needs. If they need practical support, we could see if there is a volunteer available to do this. If required, suggest that they call Darlington Support on 01325 978897 to receive practical support, such as shopping, or that they speak to their GP.

Never offer help or advice outside your expertise. If a topic comes up that you are unsure about, please raise the issue with your Ward Champion or team leader.

If the person you are calling starts to be verbally abusive or threatening in any way, advise them you will terminate the visit due to their behaviour, leave immediately and report the incident to your Ward Champion or team leader. Consider routes of egress when arriving to ensure you are able to leave quickly.

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