A friendly voice: Helping us stay in touch with people affected by dementia

After lockdown started, Tania Barella was one of many Santander UK staff to volunteer to help stay in touch with people.

Since Tania Barella began making Companion Calls to isolated people affected by dementia, she’s been blown away by its impact. 

‘I can honestly say this experience is amazing,’ says Tania, a Dementia Friend who works for Santander. ‘These calls are the most rewarding I have ever made. 

‘We know people are lonely and want to hear a friendly voice. The carers spend all their time looking after their loved ones and deserve to have some time to themselves.’

Santander has been encouraging its staff to support us and Age UK. The bank doubled the amount of time employees could volunteer alongside their usual roles, also donating £1,000 on each employee’s behalf, split between the two charities. Over 1,000 of them have volunteered, including over 480 who signed up to make Companion Calls. 

We introduced Companion Calls as a temporary addition to our Dementia Connect support after lockdown started. Trained volunteers check in regularly with people by phone and have a friendly chat about whatever they like. 

Tania Barella

Tania Barella.

Not entirely new 

Tania is a branch director with Santander, based in Farnham in Surrey and Fleet in Hampshire, so making these kinds of calls wasn’t entirely new to her. 

She also has her own experience of dementia, since her partner’s late father had the condition. 

‘We used to visit him and when we arrived he seemed quite vacant, but I loved talking to him and getting his eyes to sparkle. We talked about anything and he was always smiling and bright-eyed when we left.’

Time to chat 

Tania has been making Companions Calls to two carers and one person with dementia, agreeing when and how often to ring right at the start. 

‘It is their time to chat about whatever they want and my chance to build a relationship with them, check they are OK and – most importantly – get them to laugh.’ 

Tania feeds back to the Society after each call so that we can help with new issues that come up. This could involve one of our dementia advisers making a Welfare Call to offer further information and advice. 

‘I found this particularly useful when I was speaking to one carer,’ says Tania. ‘She said she had been up lot during the night, as her husband was now too scared to go to the toilet on his own. 

‘I asked if she would like a Welfare Call as the situation had changed slightly, and she welcomed the offer.’ 

Tania is keen to encourage other people to volunteer. 

‘I would say to anyone who is thinking of making Companion Calls to give it a go. I am sure you will find the calls as rewarding as I have!’ 

We need your help

We can’t keep our phone lines open or manage the increase in demand for our services without urgent financial support. Please donate today – with your help, we can show people living with dementia that they aren’t alone.

Donate now

Dementia together magazine: Aug/Sept 20

Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now
Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now
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