At Hurley Medical Center, elderly patients receive an extra layer of personalized care, according to Ruba Mahfouz-Alkotob, MPH, OTR, Director of the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP). Studies indicate that people over the age of 70 are at a greater risk of decline during hospital stays. HELP is a comprehensive care program designed to prevent delirium (a sudden state of confusion or change in mental state) and functional decline in older patients while they’re hospitalized. The team is comprised of a Geriatrician, an Elder Life Specialist, Geriatric Nurse Specialists and trained volunteers.
HELP is a national program that started over 20 years ago and Hurley is the only area hospital to offer this additional layer of personalized care for older patients, says the director. With targeted interventions, HELP provides measures to: orient hospitalized older patients to their surroundings, ensure that their needs for nutrition, fluids and sleep are met and that they maintain appropriate exercise schedules so they can stay mobile. It is available for patients 70 years and older who have no major complications.
According to Mahfouz-Alkotob, there are about ten HELP volunteers at any given time. “The volunteers are the heart of this program,” she says. “The schedule is very flexible and they can come in at any time during the workday, evenings and weekends.”
“I love what I do! It’s so beautiful to offer a little bit of extra care. Our elderly patients feel better and we feel better for helping them. It’s a win/win situation.”
Ruba Mahfouz-Alkotob, MPH, OTR,
Director of the Hospital Elder Life Program
The interventions that are used to meet patient needs include: Daily Visit Program, Therapeutic Activities Program (cognitive stimulation and socialization), Early Mobilization Program (daily exercise and walking assistance) and Non-Pharmacologic Sleep Protocol (promotes relaxation and sufficient sleep), Hearing and Vision Protocol (hearing and vision adaptations and equipment), Oral Volume Repletion and Feeding Assistance Program (assistance and companionship during meals), Geriatric Interdisciplinary Care (nursing, medicine, rehabilitation therapies, pharmacy, nutrition, chaplaincy care and support for patients and their families), Provider Education Program (geriatric education for professional staff), and Links with Community Services (assist with the transition from hospital to home).
Volunteers will visit patients every day, which helps keep them alert and orientated. They also learn about their hobbies and interests and will pick an activity to do together. Volunteers also teach basic skills, such as how to sit up in bed and get up to walk. They are trained to walk with patients who are independent and are at a low risk for falling.
HELP volunteers assist elderly patients with exercises to keep them more balanced and flexible. They address sleep issues with the use of non-caffeinated herbal teas, hand massages, essential oils and pillow mists. Proper hydration is one of the biggest issues for elderly patients, says the director. Volunteers encourage patients to stay hydrated and will always offer a fresh drink. They also help with meals, such as cutting up food and opening packages. “Some patients don’t need help with eating,” says Mahfouz-Alkotob, “so the volunteers will offer companionship during meals.”
The Hurley medical staff appreciate what HELP program volunteers do. “It assists us on so many levels,” says the director. “Nurses are able to concentrate on the medical issues.”
Currently, Hurley offers the HELP program on two floors but they hope to expand and will need more volunteers. Volunteers must be age 16 or older, and are required to volunteer four hours per week. “We are always looking for volunteers. It’s about giving a little love,” says Mahfouz-Alkotob. “It really does brighten their day.”
Volunteer for the HELP Program
Hurley Medical Center is actively recruiting students and community adults to participate in the expansion of its HELP program. This is one of the most patient-centered volunteer positions in the hospital. Interact directly with patients and support them bedside to help make their hospital stay safer and more pleasant. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 810.262.6961.
Photo Provided by Hurley