Dear Friend project tackles loneliness in hospital
A letter-writing scheme launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis has brought joy to patients and staff at a Nottinghamshire hospital.
Judith Keegan, Volunteering Leader for Age UK Nottingham & Nottinghamshire, explains ...
We launched the Dear Friend scheme in partnership with Nottinghamshire Healthcare (NHS Foundation Trust) in April, to help patients feel less isolated and alone at Lings Bar Hospital, West Bridgford. The scheme called for cards and letters to be sent by volunteers to patients in the hospital, who because of the coronavirus, social distancing and shielding restrictions, were unable to receive visitors.
Since the scheme was launched, approximately 600 letters have been received from volunteers across the county, much to the delight of the patients and staff at the hospital. All have been really touched by the effort made by the letter writers. Many cards and letters have included artwork, pictures and photographs, and the content has covered a whole range of topics from pets, cooking, sports and steam engines to art, books and even interesting facts like 'did you know that mice are ticklish?'
The letters and cards have enabled the staff to sit with patients and read a letter together, have a chat about the contents and provide a chance to reminisce and share a conversation that isn’t about illness or anxiety. All the letters, cards and pictures received have been sent home with a patient upon discharge or used to decorate lockers, walls and rooms to help patients remember that they may be in hospital, but they have not been forgotten.
One of the volunteers - Maria based in Nottingham, who engaged with the project, said, "It was hard to think of people being lonely in hospital and maybe thinking that they’ve been forgotten by the outside world. I wouldn’t want that for my mum and dad. I wrote 10 letters, just chatting about the area I live in, the flowers in the garden or what I was cooking or baking. It was just a bit of chit-chat really, but so nice to know that it might cheer someone up."
The Dear Friend scheme is proving to be extremely popular, catching the imagination of those who want to help and encouraging many to dust off their letter writing skills. We’re thrilled that it’s enabled local people to feel like they can do something immediate and thoughtful to support others at this difficult time. It’s great that the activity doesn’t take too much time and can be repeated over and over and is as therapeutic for the writer as it is for the receiver!
The scheme is still running at Lings Bar Hospital in West Bridgford and is now being extended to other areas across the NHS Trust in Nottinghamshire. If you would like to get involved, visit the Age UK website for further information and guidelines.