The innovative Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) works to improve the hospital experience for older patients. Being in the hospital can disrupt normal routines. Coping with these changes and the stress of illness can slow patient recovery.
HELP staff and volunteers offer assistance and activities at no charge that keep patients mentally and physically active, which helps prevent confusion and preserves mental and physical functioning in older patients. This extra attention enhances patient comfort and helps them maintain their independence while hospitalized. It also lessens or prevents what is known as delirium.
Delirium is a frightening but often controllable form of confusion that is surprisingly common among older patients in the hospital. It can often result from acute illness, infections, new medications or a move to unfamiliar surroundings.
Read more about the HELP program in an interview with Dr. Joanne Crantz, Chief of Geriatrics at Inova Fairfax Hospital – and one of 2009's "Influential Women of Virginia," according to Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
Who does HELP benefit?
Anyone age 70 or older, and on a HELP unit (see availability below), who meets the below inclusion criteria.
Inclusion criteria – must have one or more of the following impairments:
- Cognitive defecit
- Decrease in mobility or activities of daily living
- Vision impaired
- Hearing impaired
- Sleep problems
Exclusion criteria – these patients are not eligible:
- Inability to communicate verbally and/or in writing
- Terminal condition with comfort care only
- Severe psychotic disorder
- Severe dementia
- Discharge anticipated within 48 hours of admission
- Refusal by patient or family
How our HELP volunteers decrease the risk of delirium
- Communication – visit daily, converse; supply assistive devices such as hearing amplifiers, magnifiers and hand grips
- Relaxation – ease anxiety, depression, pain and insomnia; use stress relievers such as imagery, breathing techniques, music and hand massage
- Therapeutic activities – encourage mentally-stimulating activities such as card playing, jigsaw puzzles, games, reading, reminiscing, and trivia
- Meals – assist with eating; provide companionship during mealtimes
- Physical activity – promote early mobilization through daily exercise and walking assistance
- Comfort and spirituality – offer presence, touch and soothing voice; offer religious referrals, reading materials, prayer or other expressions of spirituality if desired
Current HELP availability
The HELP program is currently available at Inova Fairfax Hospital and Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in the following areas:
Inova Fairfax Hospital
- North Tower: 10th floor
- South Tower: 6th floor, 10th floor, 11th floor
Inova Mount Vernon Hospital
- Floor 3B (Medical unit)
- Floor 6B (Medical / Surgical unit)
Support our program
Learn how you can support HELP at Inova Fairfax Hospital
For more information about HELP, please contact:
Susan Heisey, MSW, LCSW, ASW-G
HELP Program Director