Hospital Elder Life Program
The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) is a structured, evidence-based, patient-care program designed to prevent delirium and functional decline in hospitalized older adults. The international HELP program was originally developed by Sharon K. Inouye, MD, and her colleagues at the Yale University School of Medicine. The University of Utah has been a HELP site since 2010. HELP delivers targeted interventions that are administered daily by specially trained volunteers. The goal of the program is to reduce cognitive and functional decline during hospitalization, allowing older adults to return home at their maximal level of independence.
Our volunteers provide frequent orienting to hospitalized older adults. They assist with daily cognitive engagement and provide companionship along with encouragement during meals. Our evening volunteers promote sleep using a non-pharmacological sleep protocol. Lastly, our volunteers are trained to encourage mobility with active range-of-motion exercise (or ambulation) for appropriate patients.
The patient inclusion criteria for our program is as follows:
- Patients ≥ 70 years
- Admitted less than 48 hours ago
- Anticipated length of stay greater than 40 hours
Exclusion criteria for the HELP program are:
- Presence of delirium - because we are a delirium prevention program, we focus on patients who are not already experiencing delirium
- Patients who are incarcerated
- Patients with dangerous or aggressive behaviors
COVID-19 Virtual Help ProgramDue to the limited-visitor policy in place at our hospital in response to the COIVD-19 pandemic, our volunteers are not performing face-to-face visits at this time. We have temporally adjusted our program to a virtual platform. Our volunteers can now provide our HELP interventions for delirium prevention virtually through the use of iPads. We have deployed iPad's to ten hospital units so far. Our volunteers are available for virtual visits Monday-Friday, 10:00am-4:00pm.
With our virtual HELP program, we heavily depend on the assistance of our clinical colleagues to help get iPads into the rooms of patients. We also provide resource boxes for each of our units with the following single-use items, playing cards, adult coloring pages. Puzzles, word searches, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Spanish word searches, colored pencils, mechanical pencils, pens, bookmark magnifiers, lip balm, hearing amplifiers, large Ziploc bags, and headphones. These items are intended to keep older patients engaged and cognitively active during their hospital stay.
We would like to personally thank all of our colleagues for helping us with the virtual program. The virtual HELP program is possible thanks to your cooperation and assistance. We sincerely cannot thank you enough!