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The benefits of care over the phone

John Wilson, Project Director of Link Line London, shares his expertise in the field of telephone support and talks about the benefits of care over the phone.

I was active in my local community, and realised there were many older people living on their own, feeling lonely and isolated from their friends and neighbours. There are all sorts of reasons our parents become socially-isolated: children moving away, the death of a partner, even giving up driving. Put simply: parents who’re alone need someone to chat to; they need someone who has time to listen.

And so the original Link Line concept was conceived.

We’ve been running since 2001 and have had great success with our membership as people begin to recognise the value of offering support over the phone.

The fact is it’s easier to make contact by phone, rather than arranging to visit people but that’s not to say the visiting people should be done away with – the importance of human contact should not be underestimated. Using a phone support system means we can connect more often, with more people. It’s also less intrusive than face-to-face – especially when we call people several times a week to check on how they’re doing.

We visit our new members before they join Link Line, so we can put faces to names. It’s easier to have a proper conversation with someone about their worries when you know exactly who they are.

Chatting over the phone is just one part of what Link Line does but we’ve found that it’s often these regular conversations with our members that provide real emotional care for those who feel lonely within the community.

Scheduled telephone calls make our members feel cared about and connected again. They feel less isolated and therefore less stressed. This emotional care over the phone is extended to practical care in the home when, during our conversations, members mention odd-jobs they need doing or medical appointments they need to attend.

By taking the time to have these chats with our members we help them become comfortable with a new person in their life which then allows for us to support them in doing do small tasks around their home.

When we help our members with chores in their home or accompany them on shopping trips and visits to the hospital we get to spend time with them on a personal basis which allows us more face-to-face time. By the same token taking care of our members’ day-to-day needs enriches the conversations we have with them over the phone.

Your parent’s home is often an extension of them, and it can become stressful if there are niggling issues around the home such as housework left undone or small things that needed fixing. Older people are often not as physically able as they once were and don’t know who to turn to in order to get things done. So the practical support we can provide actually has a psychological benefit and contributes to our members’ overall wellbeing.

What are the benefits of care over the phone?

  • Care over the phone is less intrusive for those who are reluctant to admit that they need help or support.
  • By chatting over the phone with someone your parent won’t feel as on show or vulnerable when discussing their worries as they would with a face-to-face meeting. It becomes not such a “big deal” but still allows for some of their emotional needs to be met.
  • Care over the phone can be a cheaper and easier option to set up for those of us who perhaps can’t afford face-to-face care on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Building a relationship over the phone is much like a pen-pal scenario – something that older people may prefer. Once a relationship is established it’s easier for your parent to realise that they just have to pick up the phone if they need anything done at home.
  • For an older person, beginning a relationship over the phone may ease their worries about a stranger stretching out the hand of help which in turn makes it easier for someone to come into their home and help with chores.

Care over the phone may seem like a way of removing human contact further from an older person who needs support but it can be an effective way of reassuring someone who has been out of touch with society for some time. They can regain their trust in others and allow people into their lives just by talking on the phone.

Link Line is a telephone support and errand services that runs from the Cassidy Medical Centre in Fulham. An initiative of Chapel St’s Community Connections you can call 020 3667 6778 or email to find out more information about the project.

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