Delirium prevention program offers support to seniors at Valley hospitals
More volunteers are needed to bring friendship and activity to senior patients at HealthPartners hospitals across the St. Croix Valley.
The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) connects volunteers with patients identified as being at risk for developing delirium during their stay. Typically, these patients are over 70 or have a history of delirium, dementia or other cognitive issues.
Delirium, which can develop in hours, is a sudden change in mental status or sudden onset of confusion. It is more common among older people who are admitted to hospital. People who develop delirium face longer hospital stays, a loss of independence and may not be able to return home after discharge.
HELP is based on an award-winning international delirium prevention model developed at the Yale University School of Medicine. Each hospital has tailored the HELP program to its patient population and volunteer availability. For example, volunteers at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater round with patients in the medical intensive care unit twice a day during morning and early evening shifts. At Hudson, Westfields (New Richmond) and Amery hospitals, volunteers visit inpatients once per day.
On a typical shift, volunteers can expect to:
- have conversations with patients
- provide magazines or books for patients to read
- offer activities such as adult coloring, crossword or Sudoku puzzles
- play Scrabble or similar games with patients
- help patients order a meal
“The goal is to keep patients oriented in the here and now and to maintain a healthy brain,” says Joy Hughes, Care Management Coordinator/Clinical Quality Specialist. “We know from all the research that has been done that there is a risk.”
The volunteers say they often get as much – or even more – out of the interactions as the patients.
All volunteers who participate in the HELP program will receive special delirium prevention training in addition to the regular hospital volunteer orientation.
If you’re interested in volunteering with HELP, contact the volunteer coordinator at your nearest location:
- Amery Hospital & Clinic – Kathy Rasmussen: 715-268-0682
- Lakeview Hospital (Stillwater) – Kim Klisch: 651-430-8522
- Hudson Hospital & Clinic – Lara Frasier: 715-531-6026
- Westfields Hospital & Clinic (New Richmond) – Renee Dennis: 715-243-2793