Sue Ibrahim, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Friends and Neighbours, has published a new report to demonstrate what befriending can achieve for isolated older adults. In this blog she explains what befriending can be, and the impact it has on their clients.
Befriending is a difficult concept to define and befriending schemes vary considerably. It is one of a number of measures which help to alleviate loneliness and isolation. Befriending services can provide someone who a lonely person can have a cup of tea and a chat with – but they can do much more. Our new report aims to show what befriending can achieve.
Our befriending service uses paid and volunteer befrienders to support around 300 isolated and older people at any one time through home visits. It also gives additional phone support, information about services and benefits, support with accessing health, social care and other services, advocacy and enabling of self-advocacy, choice and involvement and a voice on wider issues and services.
It also provides escorted group and one-to-one outings and events and activities in the home, including reflexology, seated exercise and reminiscence.
Through our home visits we can also identify possible problems : see if someone is eating what’s in the fridge, or hiding meals under the bed, or not taking their tablets, or not dealing with letters. We can sit and go through the letters, to see what appointments have been made or are needed. We can help someone to pack for a stay in hospital or unpack when they come out.
We can also talk about the options on how to pay for electricity, where to get certain household items, what to do if something is broken, how to get transport to somewhere. We can take the short walk with someone to the bank or post office or shop, or just pop out for that loaf of bread.
The list of things is endless – and we do these things for someone who will not get that support from anyone else. The people we visit have told us what befriending means to them :
“It helps me feel not so lonely. It gives me hope to carry on going.”
“I would miss it if you didn’t come – you can’t talk to the telly.”
“It means if I want help I can ask for it and I can talk to them and know I’m not on my own.”
“A friendship to help me talk things over. It is beneficial because I know I can trust that person.”
“I get a lot of help with paperwork and have someone to share my troubles with.”
“It makes me feel happy that someone cares.”
Our report aims to raise awareness of how important befriending is as a preventive service, and everything it can encompass when provided the way we provide it. It also highlights the challenges befriending faces in these difficult times. It argues for a greater understanding and recognition of the benefits of befriending and how it needs to be incorporated into care provision available to all.