A guide to elderly befriending services

Befriending services are a way of helping elderly people with loneliness, either in person, over the phone or online.

There are many befriending services available and many possible ways of seeking help if you think someone is struggling with elderly loneliness. There are also many opportunities available to become a befriender yourself, either as a volunteer or as a paid Care Worker.

Along with befriending services, you may also want to explore Companion Care. Our Companion Care service involves a professional Care Worker visiting your loved one in person to provide company, reassurance and to combat loneliness. Our Carers can also provide physical help, such as making the bed or enabling an elderly person to use the bathroom. To get started, find your local Alina Homecare Team today.  

Read this guide to explore your befriending service options:

carer with client who uses an elderly befriending service

What is a befriending service?

A befriending service is when a volunteer or Carer visits someone in their home to help tackle loneliness. This is most common with elderly people. According to Age UK, “loneliness can have a significant impact on older people’s health and wellbeing”.1 Befriending services seek to overcome this impact by providing reassurance, support and companionship.

Befriending services seek to overcome this impact by providing reassurance, support and companionship. Befriending isn’t exclusively available for elderly people. As with other forms of care, it can be used by anyone such as those living with complex conditions and disabilities.

In the UK, befriending services support thousands of people across the country. Some services will involve unpaid volunteers or paid Carers visiting someone’s home for a chat and a cup of tea. Others may focus on video calls, days out in the local community, or providing Home Care.

I want a befriender

Who can use befriending services?

Anyone can use befriending services if they are struggling with loneliness and isolation. Often, the focus is on supporting older people or people with disabilities and complex conditions.

If you are looking at voluntary befriending services, you can sign up on behalf of a loved one. GPs and even neighbours can also sign people up to receive this service on their behalf. However, if you are considering signing up on behalf of an elderly person, it’s important that you first check that this is ok with them. Though befriending services are designed to provide help for elderly people, some people may feel initially reluctant to speak with a stranger.

Paid befriending services, which are a type of Companion Care at Home, are also available to anyone who is isolated, lonely or struggling with a mental health condition. Most of our clients are aged over 75 or living with a complex condition such as dementia. Our Carers visit them in their homes, helping maintain a routine by sharing a cup of tea, a chat, or making meals. If you or your elderly loved one needs extra help, such as remembering medication or doing the laundry, our Carers are ready to help.

What kinds of befriending are available?

Befriending services offer different kinds of companionship, depending on the capabilities of the service as well as the type of support you or your loved one needs. These can include:

Befriending services are available from many different charities across the UK, such as ReEngage, Age UK or local church groups. They often involve volunteers visiting older people in their own home, maybe for a cup of tea and a chat, or to attend an activity like a dementia café or local event. In some cases, volunteers may even drive older people to appointments or help with their shopping. 

Telephone befriending has become increasingly common, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when the number of people volunteering in the UK increased significantly. Phone befriending involves being buddied up with an elderly person and catching up with them on the phone at regular intervals. In recent years, video calls have become an extension of more traditional telephone befriending.

Telephone trees are a network of likeminded people, who are sometimes brought together by a befriending scheme. For instance, there may be five elderly people on the same telephone tree who are then supported by a volunteer to have regular calls, such as a weekly catch up.

Paid befriending services, otherwise known as Companion Care, are a type of support where a professional Carer visits an elderly person in their own home. If you or your loved one need regular, reliable support this may be a better option than a voluntary service. You can choose how much or little support you need and also seek help with other tasks such as Personal or Domestic Care. A benefit of securing a paid Companion Carer is that they have received dedicated training to support elderly people.

What are the benefits of an elderly befriending service?

Befriending services for the elderly are aimed at decreasing loneliness for you or your loved one. According to Age UK, over 1.4 million older people in the UK often feel lonely.2 Often, this begins after losing a significant relationship, living alone or struggling to find opportunities for meaningful social interaction. This can also be the case if someone is living with a complex condition or frailty which limits their mobility.

Unfortunately, social isolation and loneliness negatively impact mental health which then affects physical health. For instance, loneliness can lead to difficulty concentrating and insomnia.3 Having an elderly befriender or companion can be the difference someone needs to improve their quality of life.

According to the National Institute on Aging, loneliness is as detrimental to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes daily. It can even increase the risk of dementia.4 Simply having a nice chat, seeing a friendly face and spending some time with someone each week can make all the difference. Benefits of befriending include:

Confidence

Knowing there’s someone there to support you or your elderly loved one can provide added confidence and peace of mind. Befrienders and paid Companion Carers are there to not only make life at home more comfortable but to be there on trips out, adding vital reassurance. Having someone to support you or your loved one can provide a boost of confidence, leading to better quality of life.

Wellbeing Support

Many elderly people experience loneliness and around a quarter of people over 65 are affected by depression.5 Having a companion means there is someone to support your or your loved one to reduce loneliness. We dedicate our time to understanding your situation and needs. Companion Care can be just what you or your loved one needs to support mental wellbeing.

Relieve Caregivers

Many older people receive care from their loved ones, but this can become challenging or overwhelming over time and put pressure on the relationship. Companion Respite Care can relieve primary caregivers, allowing them to have a regular break and time for themselves. At Alina Homecare, we can fill in for you or your usual caregiver to ensure continuity of quality companionship.

Physical Health

Your mental health impacts your physical health and vice versa. It’s important to take care of your wellbeing, especially for the elderly who may have an existing medical condition. Our Carers provide companionship which can support the challenges of dealing with a health condition. Whether you’d benefit from a friendly chat or even someone to watch a film with, we can help.

Continue Hobbies

Gardening, watching a classic film or knitting a jumper. We all want to continue our favourite hobbies and often, it’s more fun sharing your interests and passions with someone like minded. Our Companion Carers support you or your loved one to continue usual hobbies.

Social Interaction

Social interaction can bring great benefits to your mental wellbeing. Having a caring person there to listen to your thoughts and feelings can make a huge difference to your day. Companion Care can particularly benefit the elderly who live alone or receive little social interaction.

What are the benefits of an elderly befriending service?

At Alina Homecare, we provide regular companionship for you or your loved one to make a positive difference in your day. Whatever support you need, care can be tailored to your individual requirements. Whether you want someone to visit you or your loved one at home for companionship, someone to challenge at chess or to accompany you or your loved one on regular days out, we can help.

If you or your elderly loved one is lonely and you think you could benefit from our paid companion services, there are several options available to you. For example, if you have a primary caregiver, you may choose to arrange Respite Care. This involves employing professional Carers so that a primary caregiver can have a regular break away from the home. Our Carers would visit to provide as much or as little help as you need, ensuring continuous care is maintained and a change of face to stimulate your elderly loved one.

More regular care can also be advantageous if you or your loved one is lonely often and would benefit from befriending:

Visiting Care 

Visiting Home Care is available for as little or as much support as you require. A Carer visits you or your elderly loved one’s home and provides reassurance as well as practical help. This could involve anything from making meals or sitting with your elderly loved one to providing assistance with using the bathroom and getting ready for bed.

Live-in Care 

If your elderly loved one is lonely, Live-in Care involves a Carer moving into their home to provide constant companionship. This means you have round the clock reassurance, which is especially helpful if your elderly loved one doesn’t live nearby.

Overnight Care 

Elderly loneliness can sometimes be worse at night. If you or your loved one needs some added reassurance during the night time, our Overnight Care could help.

This is especially true as volunteer befrienders are less likely to be available in the late and early hours of the day. With waking nights, our Carers stay awake through the night to watch over you or your elderly loved one and provide reassurance when needed. With sleeping nights, a Carer sleeps but is close at hand if required.

All our Home Care services are personalised to you or your loved one and bespoke to your requirements. For us, it’s all about making life easier.

I want to become a befriender

How can I volunteer as an elderly befriender? How much time do I need to give?

If you enjoy spending time with other people and interacting socially, you might be a good fit for becoming a befriender. You can do this on a voluntary basis on behalf of many charities. Most befriending services are flexible in commitment, but it’s recommended that you should be able to at least give an hour or two of your time on a regular basis.

To find local volunteering opportunities for befriending schemes, you can use the UK government’s list of volunteering databases. These are:

What skills do you need for befriending?

There are lots of different qualities and skills that would make a good befriender. Some of these are:

Strong communication skills

Listening and speaking to people and responding to them in the right way is an essential part of befriending. However, words are not the only way to communicate. This is especially true for vulnerable people, who may not be able to communicate verbally. You also need to be able to manage your tone, pace and body language.

Empathy & understanding

It’s important you have a sense of empathy and a kind attitude so you can support the person you are befriending with their emotional needs.

Open mindedness

A lack of judgement or prejudice are required.

Reliability & resilience

Befrienders need to provide regular, consistent support. Communicating with vulnerable people can sometimes be challenging which is why you need to be resilient.

Honesty

People who use befriending schemes may be vulnerable and so being trustworthy is essential.

Friendly

A positive and can do attitude goes a long way.

How do you befriend an elderly person?

Here is a list of things to consider when trying to befriend an elderly person:

How can I apply for an elderly befriender job?

If you have a kind and caring attitude and are interested in spending time with elderly people, you may want to become an elderly Carer. It’s important to note that paid Carers do not just provide companionship to older people.

Care Assistant job descriptions also include other responsibilities, such as Personal Care and sometimes specialist support for conditions like dementia or Parkinson’s. If you’re interested in becoming a paid Care Assistant for the elderly, apply now – it only takes a couple of minutes and its’ very rewarding!

How much can I earn with an elderly befriender job?

At Alina Homecare, we employ Care Assistants who befriend the elderly and also provide practical help such as Personal Care and Domestic Care. These tasks include activities like doing the laundry, the vacuuming or assistance using the bathroom or showering.

Care Assistant salaries vary. According to Total Jobs, the average salary of a Care Assistant in the UK is £19,078.6 At Alina Homecare, many of our Care Assistants earn more than this plus we offer many other rewarding benefits.

When you join our Team, your salary will depend on different factors such as where you live, the hours you work and the type of contract you choose. To learn more about how much you could earn, we recommend chatting with our friendly Recruitment Team.

Not only do we offer great pay, but we also provide great benefits for all Care Assistants. This includes access to our rewards programme where you can receive big discounts on top brands, paid mileage, joining bonus and a refer a friend bonus. Apply now to start earning great pay in a job where you can make a real difference.

How can I support befriending services?

The most obvious way to support befriending services near you is to volunteer! If you have time available, offering to befriend a local elderly person can really help connect them to their local community.

If you don’t have the time available, you can also help by fundraising for local charities. There are many charities who offer befriending services, so get started today with a quick online search!

How can I find befriending services near me?

Finding befriending help for the elderly varies according to the kind of support you’re either looking for or willing to provide. If you want support from a paid Carer, you can contact your local Alina Homecare Team. If you want to explore voluntary befriending schemes, here is a list of potential places to look:

  • Age UK – many local Age UK centres have befriending services available for free. Age UK also offers a telephone befriending scheme
  • Befriending networks – you can visit the Befriending Networks website to search for befriending services near you
  • Local church and charity groups – local churches and charities often maintain volunteering groups which supply outreach support to elderly people in the community
  • MHAMHA runs befriending groups in local communities across the UK
  • Mind Charity – in England and Wales, Mind Charity runs befriending groups as well as one to one befriending. You can visit their website to learn more
  • Your local GP – if you’re struggling to find a local befriending service, get in touch with your GP as they may be able to offer help sourcing support in your area

References

1. Age UK, “Evidence Review: Loneliness in Later Life“, Reviewed 17 November 2023

2. Age UK, “Loneliness research and resources“, Reviewed 20 November 2023

3. King’s College London, “Loneliness in young adults linked to poor sleep quality“, Reviewed 20 November 2023

4. University of New Hampshire, “Prolonged Social Isolation and Loneliness are Equivalent to Smoking 15 Cigarettes A Day“, Reviewed 20 November 2023

5. Mental Health Foundation, “Older people: statistics“, Reviewed 20 November 2023

6. Total Jobs, “What is the Average Salary for Care Assistant Jobs?“, Reviewed 20 November 2023