Puzzles, activities and conversations helping prevent delirium
Hudson, Wis. – A new volunteer program is helping prevent delirium in older patients at Hudson Hospital & Clinic.
The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) launched at HealthPartners St. Croix Valley hospitals – including Hudson Hospital & Clinic – in November and patients, staff and the volunteers are already seeing the benefits.
HELP is based on an award-winning international delirium prevention model developed at the Yale University School of Medicine. Through HELP, volunteers connect with patients identified as being at risk for developing delirium during their hospital stay. Typically, these patients are over 70, or have a history of delirium, dementia or other cognitive issues. Patients staying for extended care may also benefit from the program.
“I think there’s a lot of benefit to be had with this program,” said Kathy Van Ness, a volunteer with the program at Hudson. “Several patients have said how touched they are that someone comes in and spends some time with them.”
Delirium, which can develop in hours, is a sudden change in mental status or sudden onset of confusion. It is more common among older people who are admitted to hospital; the national occurrence rate ranges from 29-64 percent. Potential complications are serious. Delirium has been linked with higher mortality, decline in mental abilities, increased rates of dementia, increased health care use and costs and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since its launch at Hudson Hospital & Clinic, volunteers have been visiting with three to four patients per day. Often, they’ll sit and talk with the patient, offer magazines, crossword puzzles or adult coloring books, play games or help order lunch. It sounds simple – but it has an important goal at heart: stimulating the patient’s cognitive abilities through activities.
“We know that people who experience delirium may have a prolonged hospital stay, a loss of independence, and may face not being able to return home after discharge,” said Joy Hughes, Care Management Coordinator/Clinical Quality Specialist who is heading up the program at Hudson Hospital & Clinic.
One of the first patients to benefit from the program at Hudson Hospital & Clinic was Becky Hansen, of Stillwater. She was in the hospital for six weeks for a foot condition. In between visits from family and friends, said Becky, the HELP volunteers provided welcome company.
“I thought if the volunteers were willing to play Scrabble with me and take my mind off my day – that’s wonderful,” she added. “I think the healing process involves your mind and your body, and they certainly take care of you here; you heal better when you have that kind of interaction.”
For more information on becoming a HELP volunteer at Hudson, contact volunteer coordinator Rosa Magnus at 715-531-6070.
(photo above) Hudson HELP volunteer Helen Esmond with Care Management Coordinator Joy Hughes and patient Becky Hanson in the Winter Garden at Hudson Hospital & Clinic.