Geriatric Clinical Programs

HELP Logo

The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) is a comprehensive program of care for hospitalized older patients designed to prevent delirium and functional decline.

HELP is the result of a clinical trial conducted at the Yale University School of Medicine which found that physical and mental decline can be reduced by providing practical interventions to older patients. Volunteers carry out targeted interventions at the bedside directed towards known delirium risk factors that include cognitive impairment, sleep deprivation, immobility, visual impairment, hearing impairment, and dehydration. The HELP team works together to ensure older adults get the special consideration they need to get the best results from their hospital stay.   More information about the HELP program can be found at  www.hospitalelderlifeprogram.org.

HELP Newsletters

What is HELP?

Often times, hospitalization for an older person means a decline in physical and mental abilities, making it difficult to recover from illness and return to a pre-hospital lifestyle. HELP improves the hospital experience for older patients by creating an environment that maximizes independence, maintains dignity and helps speed up the recovery process. This is made possible with volunteers, working alongside our health care professionals.

How is HELP different from other volunteer programs?

Our volunteers work with patients directly at the bedside, making a difference in the patient’s hospital experience. Volunteers will experience one-to-one patient interaction and learn to work with a team of health care professionals as they help create a friendly hospital environment by providing empathetic support, encouragement and companionship to older patients and their families.

How do volunteers help?

The primary goal of HELP is to maintain the mental and physical condition of older patients of University Hospital. Volunteers work closely with our health care team with the following activities:

  • Feeding:  For older patients, maintaining good nutrition is essential not only to fighting infection and healing, but in preventing confusion. Volunteers encourage patients to eat and drink to maintain good health, while providing companionship, social contact, stimulation, and if needed, meal assistance.
  • Mobility: Walking and movement helps prevent loss of muscle mass and flexibility, which happens very quickly when patients are on bed rest. With the help of our volunteers, the Early Mobilization Program aims to keep older patients up and moving during their hospital stay. Patients who are able to walk will receive encouragement and assistance to get out of bed. Patients unable to walk receive coaching to complete simple exercise movements while lying in bed.
  • Daily Visitor: It is quite common for older adults who show no signs of confusion at home to become disoriented and forgetful in the hospital. A daily visitor, who engages in orienting communication, provides patients with information needed to stay mentally aware of their surroundings. Volunteers will help patients with vision and hearing assistive devices and use an orientation board to keep them alert and oriented during the day.
  • Therapeutic Activity Program: Therapeutic or leisure activity provides a balance to refresh the spirit and regain the energy spent during hours of treatment and recovery. The Therapeutic Activities Program allows patients to participate in activities they enjoy, boosting self-esteem, encouraging them to be social, and providing mental stimulation, which prevent mental deterioration and lead to a faster recovery. Volunteers offer activities such as trivia or word games to keep patients mentally engaged. Volunteers also offer relaxation techniques, including breathing exercises, hand massages, stress squeeze balls, imagery, and soothing music.

Who do volunteers work with?

The HELP Team consists of an elder life specialist, geriatric nurse practitioners, geriatricians, and trained volunteers, working together to protect older patients from experiencing the potential loss of independence that may occur as an outcome of a hospital stay. Our staff works as a team to address the special needs of each patient.

How do I become a volunteer?

  1. Fill out the volunteer application available online at:
    http://healthcare.utah.edu/hospital/customerservice/volunteer/apply/
  2. Call Volunteer Services at (801) 581-2429 to schedule an interview.
  3. Attend University Hospital volunteer orientation and HELP training.
  4. Volunteer for a minimum of one, four-hour shift per week for a minimum of 200 hours or one year.

Contact Information:

HELP Program
University Hospital, Division of Geriatrics
30 N. 1900 E., RM AB193 SOM
Salt Lake City, Utah 84132
  Nancy Joyce, BS, LMT
Project Facilitator/Elder Life Specialist
nancy.joyce@hsc.utah.edu
(801) 587-9103

Division of Geriatrics Clinical Team

The Geriatrics Division provides consultation services for University Health Care (UHC) inpatients at the request of the admitting service’s attending physician. Appropriate patients will be evaluated by one of the Division’s on-call attending geriatrician faculty members – often in conjunction with the Geriatric Medicine Fellow – within 24 hours of being notified of the consult. In most instances, we are not able to provide ongoing continuity of care following the initial assessment. Patients who may require evaluation for acute medical problems that generally require continuity of care (e.g. cardiopulmonary issues, delirium, acute kidney injury, etc.), would be better served by the General Medicine Consult Service.

With regard to the patients most appropriate for geriatric inpatient consultation, the evidence suggests that those patients most likely to benefit are:

  • patients age 85 or older,
  • patients with complex biomedical or psycho-medical problems,
  • frailty,
  • geriatric syndromes,
  • requiring post-hospital placement (disposition questions), or
  • severe functional impairment (limitations in activities of daily living).1

Examples of geriatric syndromes include cognitive impairment and dementias, immobility, falls, polypharmacy, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, and malnutrition.

An alternative to in-patient consultation for patients who may benefit from post-hospital discharge/ transitional care visit or outpatient comprehensive geriatric assessment is to schedule a new patient appointment in the Geriatrics Clinic by calling 801-581-2628. A post-hospital discharge transitional care visit in our consultation clinic can be usually scheduled within two weeks of discharge. All of our clinical sites serve as demonstration and educational sites for students, house staff, and fellows during their rotations.  Inpatient, outpatient, home care, and long term care with an emphasis in acute post-hospitalization care and extended care are included in this educational experience.  Linked research in aging is also conducted.

1 Warshaw, GA et al. Which Patients Benefit the Most from a Geriatrician’s Care: Consensus Among Directors of Geriatrics Academic Programs J Am Geriatr Soc 56:1796, 2008

University Health Care

The Geriatrics Clinic specializes in the care and treatment of the elderly population.  Our clinic offers outpatient care, treatment, and consultation services by nationally known Geriatric providers.  Clinic staff are available to answer questions, schedule referrals, and provide personalized support to you or your loved one regarding treatment and care.  Our medical assistants are highly experienced in the care of elderly patients, and will work closely with you to make sure you receive excellent care during your visit. The Geriatrics Clinic at the University Hospital is currently accepting referrals. If you would like to make an appointment, please call (801) 581-2628, or go to University Health Care Find a Doctor.

VA Salt Lake City Health Care System (Blue Clinic)

The Salt Lake VAMC Blue Clinic consists of Internal Medicine resident continuity clinics, faculty clinics, geriatric clinics, urgent care, and mental health clinics. We provide Primary Care for a diverse group of veterans of all ages, men and women. We also provide consultation regarding cognitive decline/function, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, management of atrial fibrillation, and preoperative assessment.  The Blue Clinic provides the major portion of Internal Medicine resident education on an out patient basis and it's attendings have received multiple awards in recognition of this teaching effort.  If you would like to make an appointment, please call (801) 582-1565 x1883.

What is Geriatrics?  Geriatrics is the branch of medicine focusing on health promotion and the prevention and treatment of disease and disability in later life. Geriatrics or geriatric medicine is a sub-specialty of internal medicine and family medicine that focuses on health care of elderly people. The term geriatrics comes from the Greek γέρων (geron) meaning "old man" and ιατρός (iatros) meaning "healer". There is no set age at which patients may be under the care of a geriatrician or geriatric physician, a physician who specializes in the care of elderly people. Rather, this decision is determined by the individual patient's needs, and the availability of a specialist. Geriatrics, the health care of aged people, differs from gerontology, which is the study of the aging process itself.

What is a Geriatrician?  A Geriatrician is a medical doctor who is specially trained to prevent and manage the unique and multiple health concerns of older adults.  They are board-certified in either Family Practice or Internal Medicine and have acquired additional training to obtain the Certificate of Added Qualifications in Geriatric Medicine.  A team of health care professionals will work together in the medical evaluation of an older patient.

Who should see a Geriatrician?  Regardless of an older person's age, a geriatrician should be consulted when:

  • An older person's condition causes considerable impairment and frailty.

  • Family members and friends are feeling considerable stress and strain as caregivers.

Where are you located? 

  • University of Utah Clinic I is located in the University Hospital at 50 N Mario Capecchi Drive.
  • Blue Clinic is located in the Veteran's Main Hospital, Bldg 14, 500 Foothill Blvd., ground level.

Where do I park?

  • University of Utah Clinic I parking is available in the main parking terrace for the University Hospital
  • VAMC Blue Clinic parking is located just outside the main hospital

How do I make an appointment?

  • University of Utah Clinic I, please call (801) 581-2628.
  • VAMC Blue Clinic, please call (801) 582-1565  Ext 1883

What are your office hours?

  • University of Utah Clinic I - 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • VAMC Blue Clinic - 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

My Husband/wife wants to donate his/her body to the Medical School.  What should I do?

Contact the University of Utah, Neurobiology and Anatomy Department, (801) 581-6728