The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) program at Baylor Hospital is a unique in-patient clinical experience that exists in fewer than 200 hospitals world-wide. The program targets risk factors for delirium and is based on research conducted at Yale University School of Medicine by Dr. Sharon K. Inouye and colleagues. The program was modified and replicated at Baylor Health Care System. The program has grown, and is operational year-round at Baylor Medical Center Garland and Baylor Medical Center Irving will soon be available at Baylor Dallas.
Every volunteer receives 16 hours of hands-on training at the hospital. After the training session, each volunteer works with a trained volunteer or staff person. They see patients on each four hour shift, once per week. Volunteers are included in vital information sharing about each patient, including their diagnosis, any special precautions, and their risk factors for delirium. The patient may have deficits in vision, hearing, mobility or cognition, in addition to the underlying medical condition for which they are receiving treatment.
Using this information, the volunteer tailors their interactions to each patient, making sure to keep the patient oriented and engaged during their stay. If there are any changes, the volunteer uses their judgment to involve the staff. Because HELP is a quality improvement program, volunteers also solve practical problems for the patients to help them feel empowered and to improve the quality of their hospital stay. This might be something as simple as refilling the patient’s water, activating the patient’s phone or helping the patient fill out their menu. Of course, while engaged with the patient, the volunteer is looking for the hallmark signs of delirium. Before leaving their shift, the volunteer completes documentation about their interactions with patients.
This orchestrated effort consistently results in a lower delirium rate than would otherwise be expected, which translates into healthier outcomes for the patient as well as a reduced length of hospital stay. For the volunteer, we have found that engaged volunteers gain tremendous self-awareness, insight in solidifying their volunteer or career interests, typically in the medical field, and hands-on patient contact not found elsewhere.
You can find more information about HELP at
www.hospitalelderlifeprogram.org, or email a local contact,