Dementia helpline in urgent need of volunteers to answer calls
When her mother was diagnosed with dementia, Christy MacLean knew that she wanted to give her all the support she could – but Christy didn’t know about the support that was available to her as a caregiver. Two years later, she continues to care for her mother, while also acting as a critical resource to others facing dementia. Christy answers calls on the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s First Link® Dementia Helpline, an information and support line that is now in urgent need of more volunteers in Greater Victoria.
“My sister and I spent a lot of time dealing with doctors and trying to navigate the health-care system,” Christy says. “If I had been aware of the helpline, I would have called for help.”
Christy is among a small group of volunteers based out of the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Victoria Resource Centre in Saanich who answer calls from across B.C. A toll-free phone line, the First Link® Dementia Helpline is for anyone who lives with dementia or is a care partner to someone who does. It’s also for people concerned about their memory, people who work with people living with dementia or any member of the public who would like to know more about Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or memory loss.
The role was a natural fit for Christy, who has held various professional roles answering calls on crisis and information lines – but you don’t need to be a phone line veteran to help meet the growing need for dementia support and education in B.C. A background in first response, social work, counselling, gerontology or health care is an asset, but not mandatory, as an extensive training program is provided.
“Whether people are calling for general information or they are caregivers in need of support, people just need a starting point to get information. They just need someone to talk to,” Christy says. “You can feel like you’re the only one going through it when you’re caring for someone living with dementia. I see a lot of parallels in caring for my mom.”
The number of calls to the helpline has risen dramatically along with the immediate need for volunteers, a need expected to increase as the province’s population ages and more British Columbians are diagnosed with dementia.
“Volunteers are compassionate listeners who offer information that supports callers who are on the dementia journey,” says Caroline Herbert, the Alzheimer Society’s Provincial Coordinator, First Link® Dementia Helpline. “For volunteers, it’s a meaningful role with a direct impact that also provides valuable experience in the social services field.”
To find out how to become a Dementia Helpline volunteer, call Caroline Herbert, Provincial Coordinator, First Link® Dementia Helpline at 778-746-2021 or email [email protected]. To access the First Link® Dementia Helpline, call 1-800-936-6033.