HELP Volunteers Help Elders

HELP volunteers

Elder patients can become disoriented by the unfamiliar hospital setting, absence or reduced presence of family, and changes in routine, especially in combination with illness or injury, surgery, anesthesia and multiple medications. Studies have shown that when older patients stay connected by talking with others delirium can be prevented. HELP Volunteers visit with older patients and provide that connection.

Special volunteers connect with older patients creating better outcomes.

Batoul Rabba and Andrew Pryor are members of a specially selected and trained team of Methodist Hospital volunteers for the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP). Established in June 2013, this is Nebraska’s first and only HELP program.

Most of Methodist’s HELP volunteers are preparing for careers in health care. Batoul will become a physician assistant; Andrew, a physician. Both are outgoing conversationalists and attentive listeners eager to spend time chatting with hospitalized older adults.

The chats are actually a very purposeful and evidenced-based practice that helps prevent a common and serious problem for hospitalized elders: delirium, an acute or sudden state of confusion that can worsen medical outcomes and lengthen hospital stays.

“We start as strangers, and the more we talk, the more we connect,” Batoul explained.

Delirium can develop when elder patients become disoriented by the unfamiliar hospital setting, absence or reduced presence of family, and changes in routine, especially in combination with illness or injury, surgery, anesthesia and multiple medications.

HELP volunteers help orient at-risk patients 70 years and older by supporting and encouraging socialization, alertness and mobility within the limits of their physical condition. Training and oversight is provided by Methodist Hospital’s volunteer services department, specialized online study and therapy staff. For details on becoming a Methodist HELP volunteer, please contact the Volunteer Recruiter and Coordinator at (402) 815-1130

Read more about Batoul, Andrew and the HELP program in the Winter 2014 issue of "The Meaning of Care Magazine."