Our Freephone Dementia Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For over 30 years, this vital service has offered a listening ear, emotional support and provided information to quite literally thousands of people with dementia, families, friends and carers.

Each and every one of our call handlers is a trained and highly skilled volunteer. Their dedication and loyalty are remarkable, and it’s a great privilege for me to support our volunteer network – managing people who turn up, shift after shift, not because they have to, but because they want to.

This call record, first published on Dementia Awareness Week and National Volunteers’ Week 2021, beautifully demonstrates the power of a simple question and the tangible difference our volunteers can make to the lives of people who ring our Helpline. Names and some details have been changed.

Jenn Hall, Helpline Manager



“A granddaughter rang the helpline upset about her grandad, Tom.

Tom, who has dementia, was having a 'melt down' and neither she or her grandmother could settle him. She wanted me to speak to Tom to see if I could help in anyway. Tom came on the phone, loud and aggressive, unsure who I was and why I wanted to talk to him. I told him my name, and that I was on here to help him feel more relaxed, and not so upset.

I just let him speak, and I listened.

He told me he didn’t want to live with his wife, because all she did was ‘tell him off’ and he was ‘sick of it’. He told me there was nothing I could do, and said he wanted to end the call.

'Before you go Tom, tell me where you are from, as I detect a wonderful Irish accent behind that Scottish lilt...'

That was enough to keep Tom on the phone another 10 minutes, telling me all about his life, his wife, where they had previously lived and worked. He became much calmer, started to cry a little before very gently and politely telling me he was going to say goodbye, as he was tired and needed to sit down.

Tom’s granddaughter came back on the phone and said he was now reading the paper. I suggested they left him to have some quiet space, alone but safe until he wanted their attention. She said she would try and tell her grandmother how to communicate with him differently such as using distraction techniques, especially when he was upset.

She was very thankful for the help.

This was the first time I took a call of this nature. I found it very rewarding that I was able to help Tom and his family on this occasion, even if it was just for a little while.”

Don ask

Thank you to this volunteer, and indeed all our volunteers, who donate their time to our 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline. Could you be the latest member of our Helpline team? We're looking for Dementia Helpline Volunteers that are honest and empathetic, flexible and adaptable, and emotionally resilient. If that sounds like you and you can commit to a minimum of one shift every two weeks then we want to hear from you.