John* recently turned 65. He desperately wants to feel needed by his family, and he wishes they would call, but they never do. He is very much alone, on a limited income and suffers from depression. He doesn’t trust people, but still wants to know that someone cares that he’s alive. Since he has a limited income, it’s difficult for him to do the things he would like to do, so he often spends his days struggling to find ways to pass the time.
The calls from the Caller Reassurance Program reassure him that someone cares that he is alive. For a few minutes, he is able to have a conversation with someone and feel connected to the world outside of his small apartment. Often the calls he gets from Caller Reassurance Program are the only ones he gets all week. The care providers encourage him to eat, take his medication on time and do some things that bring him pleasure or comfort. They remind him that he is important enough to invest time in himself.
Pam* has been dealing with mental illness for a good part of her life. Recently, she developed arthritis and has become very isolated and depressed. Even on good days, Pam’s words can be hard to understand, and she complains that people often don’t think of her as a human being. She has thoughts of suicide and believes the world would be better off without her. She sees no point in life, believing that she is too old to care about.
Caller Reassurance callers have taken the time to listen to her and really make an effort to hear her words and thoughts. They do their best to make her feel like she’s worthwhile. For a few minutes each day, Pam is treated with dignity. The conversations she has helps her forget her pain for a little while, and she knows that the person on the other end of the call cares that she stays safe.
Clara* is in her sixties and suffers from severe depression, as well as anxiety about what she fears may happen in her future. When the Caller Reassurance Program phones her, she is often in the midst of an anxiety attack and feeling suicidal. She cries, “Nobody understands what I’m going through. I can’t talk to my kids. They get angry with me. My friends are dead or have moved away. I don’t know what I would do without the program. You have saved my life many times. Thank you for calling.”
*All names changed to protect callers' identities
I have been a Distress Centres' lay responder for two years and a part of the Caller Reassurance Program since I started. I have seen improvement in so many Caller Reassurance callers since I began. One lady that I regularly support deals with anxiety, and for the most part she has learned to manage it. When I do get in touch with her, it is always “great timing,” when I can listen to what is going on, and together we de-escalate her anxiety.
A participant I feel has experienced profound change due to our continued care and support was diagnosed with a chronic condition many years ago and had been left feeling very isolated. She needed a lot of call-outs to help her find relief from chronic pain and physical discomfort. She has benefitted from our service in that she now feels less alone and genuinely cared about.
We want our service users to feel as though they are accepted for who they are, supported no matter what their circumstances are, and very importantly, understood and respected as individuals. I am glad to be an integral part of the Caller Reassurance Program for Seniors' team as it grows and hope to see even more ways of helping our callers in the future, like hands-on approaches, third-party call-ins for special issues and even more advanced case management.
Each week, I really look forward to talking to a woman who suffers from extreme anxiety and is easily upset. She is learning to face her fears, organize her day and complete whatever tasks she starts. Her dream is to get on a bus and go anywhere she chooses on her own someday, but right now it’s hard for her to find the courage to even walk out her front door. Our conversations usually begin with her needing to vent about something that is bothering her. Sometimes, she works on a task when we are on the phone, and she always thinks of something she will do when our conversation ends. She does most of the talking, and all she needs from me is a few words of validation and encouragement.
The Caller Reassurance Program is about empowering participants as much as possible to be productive in ways that are meaningful for them and leave them feeling less isolated and fearful, if only for a while. Everyone deserves to have people who care about them, as well as encourage them to reach meaningful goals and live up to their full potential. For some of our callers, the unconditional caring and encouragement that Caller Reassurance volunteers provide is the only emotional support they receive all day.