New conversational phone line launches for seniors and persons with disabilities that are feeling a sense of loneliness during COVID-19

Published in Wellness

Author: Staff

When coronavirus arrived in our communities and safety measures were implemented, 440 Carris Health volunteers were no longer able to work in the hospital gift shop, surgery and cancer center waiting lounges, and visit hospice patients, among many other duties. At the same time, populations that are at a higher risk for coronavirus, the elderly and persons with disabilities, had to isolate themselves from family and friends.

A wellness group, with the help of a grant from the Willmar Area Community Foundation, began looking for a solution of how bridge the gap of those feeling a sense of loneliness before they start experiencing signs of depression or anxiety.

"We heard of the idea of a conversational phone line by another community in Minnesota," said Amber Silva, Carris Health Wellness Coordinator. "It's different than a crisis line, because we want to reach these populations before it gets to that point of needing to direct them to other care. This is just being able to talk to another peer, any time you need it, just as you would a friend or a family member."

When thinking of who would staff this phone line, the thought of the Carris Health volunteers immediately came to mind.

“These are people that naturally want to connect with others,” said Carris Health Volunteer Services Manager, Deb Van Buren. "Our volunteers have been trained to be active listeners, and more importantly, they have generous hearts. The conversational line is an avenue to utilize their gifts and abilities within the safety of their own home."

For volunteer, Darlene Bratberg, she felt called to serve her community. "I was a nurse for over 40 years and have been a hospice volunteer for 11 years. My whole life has been connecting and talking to people in many places and different situations. Since COVID-19 and social distancing started, I found myself calling people to listen and see how they are,” said Bratberg. "So when Carris Health sent the information about this new phone line, I was looking forward to the opportunity. We have been trained and are available with a listening ear and resources to share."

The Conversational Phone Line for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities is open for calls from 9am - 4pm Monday through Friday at 1 (866) 777-0250.