Volunteers needed for vital dementia support service

Q & A with Caroline Herbert, Provincial Coordinator, First Link® Dementia Helpline

The number of people affected by dementia in British Columbia is rising, and so is the need for dementia support and education. One of the key services available to people affected by dementia is the First Link® Dementia Helpline, a toll-free phone line for anyone facing dementia, concerned with memory loss or simply seeking more information about the disease. Calls to the helpline are on the rise – and so is the immediate need for volunteers to help keep the line open. Visit alzbc.org/volunteer to learn more.

We talked to Caroline Herbert, Provincial Coordinator of the First Link® Dementia Helpline, to learn more about the critical service and how you can help keep it running by answering calls as a volunteer.

What is the First Link® Dementia Helpline?
It’s a toll-free phone line 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.

What is the current demand for the helpline?
The First Link® Dementia Helpline is a busy helpline with callers calling in from all areas of the province looking for information and support. We are looking for volunteers who are available for one shift Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 to 4 p.m. The commitment is for a minimum of one year and includes three months of training.

What type of calls do you typically receive?
The majority of the callers are caregivers and family members. They are looking for help navigating the journey of dementia. We also receive calls from health-care providers looking for information and direction on how to support their clients.

What impact do volunteers have on the people they support?
Volunteers offer a listening ear to callers who are just happy to talk to someone who has an understanding of the journey they are on. We hear how grateful callers are to have someone not only listen to their story, but also offer tools to help them understand more about dementia. Volunteers give callers the relief that someone is listening and can help them navigate the challenges that dementia can bring.

What skills should a potential volunteer possess?
The First Link® Dementia Helpline has opportunities for anyone interested in using skills in effective communication and support strategies, connecting with people seeking information on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and supporting people who have received a diagnosis. 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. Computer skills are required.

What type of training is provided?
There is a tiered training program that starts with a wealth of information on all aspects of dementia and how best to answer caller questions. The initial training commitment is three months, with a required one-year volunteer commitment. Volunteers will have the opportunity to attend workshops and support groups offered by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. and will learn from staff and other volunteers.

What do volunteers have to say about their experience answering calls?
This is a rewarding and challenging role. Sometimes callers just want someone to talk to who understands.

What time commitment is expected from volunteers?
Volunteers contribute 3.5 hours a week on the line, with a minimum commitment of one year or 150 hours at the Victoria Resource Centre, located in Saanich.

How to apply:
To find out more about volunteering on the helpline, call Caroline Herbert, Provincial Coordinator, First Link® Dementia Helpline at 778-746-2021 or email [email protected]. Apply directly at alzbc.org/volunteer.

To access the First Link® Dementia Helpline, call 1-800-936-6033 (English), 1-833-674-5007 (Cantonese and Mandarin) or 1-833-674-5003 (Punjabi).

Last Updated: 05/07/2019