The Everest Foundation Telephone Angels Program connects volunteers with clients to combat the loneliness often experienced by our critically ill clients. Project Angel Food has a holistic approach to client mental and physical health outcomes. This means that we not only care for a person’s body with Medically Tailored Meals, but also for a person’s emotional well being with compassion and one-on-one interaction.
With the onset of the COVID pandemic in early 2020, Project Angel Food’s Client Services team noted an uptick of phone calls from clients expressing feelings of being isolated and alone. In response, we began piloting the program known today as The Everest Foundation Telephone Angels Program.
This program, which is run by the Project Angel Food Volunteer Services Department, connects volunteers with clients through regularly scheduled phone calls for social “check-ins.” In these calls the client/volunteer dyads share updates, stories, sympathetic listening and even a laugh or two. Clients and volunteers often build bonds of friendship and look forward to their weekly talks.
Volunteers do not offer medical advice or psychological counseling, simply camaraderie and friendship. As a result of The Everest Foundation Telethon Angels Program, 90% of the clients participating report feeling less lonely, and mood improvement.
As an illness advances, the lack of social contact can cause social isolation, which is as strong a risk factor for mortality as smoking, obesity or lack of physical activity. Social isolation is deadly. Health risks associated with isolation and loneliness include heart disease type 2 diabetes, dementia, depression, and suicide attempts. Social isolation is often the result of physical disability, frailty, declining mobility; loss of access to transportation; hearing or sight impairment; shrinking social networks, often as a result of death of peers; fear of falling, or embarrassment over a disability. Today, our stay at home health guidelines are another cause of loneliness.
 National Institute on Aging, Featured Research, “Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks,” April 23, 2019. https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks#:~:text=Health%20effects%20of%20social%20isolation,Alzheimer's%20disease%2C%20and%20even%20death.