For elderly people at risk of social isolation, signing up with a befriending service is a great option.
These services can be so beneficial for people who want to spend time and connect with others.
Plus, they are a lifeline for elderly people who are lonely and isolated due to factors beyond their control.
This article will help you understand what is a befriending service and how they could help your loved one.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:
- A befriending service is a support service for elderly people at risk of social isolation.
- Usually the services are made possible by volunteers who want to make a difference to an older person’s life.
- This service cannot support care tasks and help with certain conditions which require a trained carer.
- Befriending services differ from home help as volunteers aren’t required to help with tasks around the house.
What is a befriending service?
A befriending service is when a dedicated volunteer visits an elderly person at home.
This is to help people who live alone connect regularly with a friendly face for a chat over a cuppa.
Some befrienders may support with trips out of the house such as to a cafe, event or an appointment.
It is a more casual type of care than having home care visits, but one which can be essential for mental wellbeing.
How does it work?
Befriending services are available through charities, agencies and even mobile apps.
Those working for the befriending service are usually volunteers, but some home care providers also offer the same service.
They get matched with an older person in need of a friend and set up regular meetings to chat or do certain activities.
Some services are online, via phone calls, while an in-person service will visit your loved one at home.
What's the difference between a befriending service and companionship care?
Befriending services are carried out by volunteers who want to make a difference to the lives of older people.
It can be organised through charities or through independent platforms that you can join.
The goal is to provide a consistent source of social interaction and tackle the issue of loneliness.
Companion care services
Companion care is a care service that focuses on the social and emotional wellbeing for elderly loved ones.
It is arranged as part of an elderly carer package through a care provider.
Companion care is best suited to people with fewer care needs, but who benefit from interaction with a care worker.
It is a great option for loved ones who live far away from family members, as you know they’re being looked after.
Why are befriending services needed?
Research carried out by Age UK found that 1.4 million older people in the UK are often lonely.
With the number of over 65s set to rise to an estimated 16 million people by 2030 this represents a significant issue.
Befriending services can be a lifeline for elderly people who feel isolated from their family, friends and communities.
As these services provide the compassion and stimulation that reduces loneliness and cognitive decline.
Can they help your loved one?
If you are worried about leaving your elderly loved one alone, or that they are getting lonely, your fears are justified.
NHS figures report over a million older people go without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member every month.
Loneliness can be caused by any of the following issues, but signing up with a befriending service can help.
Losing a partner or significant person in your life can be extremely challenging at any age.
But elderly people may feel they have fewer people to turn to for support.
This can be especially difficult if there are no younger family members to check in on them and help them while grieving.
A befriending service volunteer can be a source of support and compassion through this difficult time.
Older people living alone can be at risk of loneliness if they don’t get regular contact with their family or community.
They may not realise they are feeling lonely until they are struggling, which exacerbates the issue. Referring your loved one to a befriending service can help nip any signs of loneliness in the bud.
And help your loved one feel connected and supported by the local community.
Loss of hearing of eyesight
Losing your hearing or eyesight can be a drastic life change that people struggle to adapt to.
It can be a very isolating experience which leaves people at risk of loneliness.
Especially if they aren’t as able to get out of the house and participate in activities as they once were.
Having regular volunteer visits can help someone in this situation feel included and supported as they learn how to adapt.
Older people living with conditions that reduce their mobility may find themselves less able to get out of the house.
This can make socialising with friends in the community so difficult that they eventually give up.
The lack of regular social connection can cause depression which, while an issue in itself, can spiral into loneliness.
A befriender helps tackle this issue by visiting your loved one in their home where they feel comfortable.
Lack of transport
There are many reasons why an elderly person may not have access to transport to get out of the house.
From living in a rural location or being unable to drive due to their health and financial worries.
Difficulty accessing convenient transport can limit someone’s ability to leave the house and see friends.
This can cause loss of confidence and lead to becoming socially isolated.
What services does a befriender provide?
For the elderly, befriending services offer consistent, supportive relationships that tackle social isolation.
The volunteer befrienders are there as a friend, confidant, listener and shoulder to lean on.
They top up the cup of social interaction and support people who may have become isolated in their old age.
Are befriending services part of a care plan?
If you are completing a care needs assessment, you may discuss your options to overcome social isolation.
However, befriending services are largely run by volunteers, therefore there is no charge to use the service.
There are many other services that can be included in your care plan if you need more extensive care.
Attendance allowance can help you pay for costs such as taxi fees if you struggle to access transport to leave home.
Attending a day centre in the community can be a great way to meet people and connect.
Some day centres are for people with fewer needs while others cater to specific health conditions like dementia.
There’s more here on what is a day centre.
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