Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP)
A Hospital stay
can be overwhelming for anybody, but it can be
particularly bewildering for the elderly. Hospitalized
older adults suffer a significant disruption in their
daily routines and can become easily confused and
disoriented. The medical term for this is delirium and
more than 2 million older Americans each year develop
this sudden change in mental status during a
hospitalization. The Hospital Elder Life
Program (HELP) is an innovative approach to
improving hospital care for older patients, helping to
make the most of their hospitalization and decrease the
likelihood of delirium. HELP is
designed to prevent delirium before symptoms develop and
studies have shown that encouraging simple activities
such as frequent orientation and reminiscing, patients
are less likely to develop delirium and go on to suffer
the consequences that it can bring. If not
prevented or detected early, delirium may last six
months or more, leading to functional decline, a longer
hospital stay, and the potential need for long term care.
The primary goals of
HELP are to:
and physical functioning of high risk older adults throughout hospitalization
Maximize independence at discharge
Assist with the transition from hospital to home
Prevent unplanned hospital re-admissions
uses specially trained volunteers to maintain physical
and cognitive functioning and decrease confusion for
older patients who are at high risk. This program is
available to seniors throughout the hospital and some of the services provided include:
Sleep enhancement without medications
Provider Education Programs
Linkages to Community Services
What is delirium?
Delirium is defined as
a sudden change in mental status, or onset of confusion
that develops over hours or days. It can cause problems
with thinking, difficulty paying attention,
hallucinations and paranoia and it can also cause
changes in personality. Delirium is a serious
problem for a hospitalized older adult as it can slow
the recovery process and lengthen the hospital stay.
What can be done to help prevent delirium?
A friend or
family member with you to the hospital.
Ideally someone to stay with you during initial
evaluation and admission. This person can help keep
track of what is happening and provide/verify
information about usual level of functioning if needed.
Glasses to help navigate a new environment
Hearing aids to help with communication
Dentures to promote eating/nutrition
Have a list that includes:
medications (including eye drops and medications used on an as needed basis)
medications (including herbals, vitamins and medication used only when needed)
Physicians (include phone numbers)
with contact numbers (include home, cell, and work numbers)
In the Hospital:
staff to post the date, name of the hospital, and
the room number in the room where it is easily
visible. Family/friends can gently remind their
loved one of the date/season and where they are when they visit.
Make sure call
bell, phone, TV remote and any other necessities are easily within reach.
Walk at least 3
times each day. You may need assistance due to
weakness or tubes, so discuss with your nurse the need to use a call bell for assistance.
Stay awake in
the daytime to promote sleep at night. Bring
in activities such as books, crosswords, or
magazines to help pass the time. Pictures are
also fun to look at, talk about and help staff know you better.
sleep, go to bed at your usual time. Turn off
the TV. If you have trouble falling asleep,
try some herbal tea, back/hand massage, and/or quiet
music to help relax. If you are being awakened
for medications or vital signs, ask your doctor if
this is necessary or if times can be changed to promote sleep.
HELP combines the
expertise of a Geriatrician, an Elder Life Nurse
Specialist, and a Certified Recreational Specialist with
the services of dedicated volunteers.
Yale Hospital Elder
Elder Life Program: