News & Events02/02/2015
Hospital Elder Life Program aims to prevent confusion
As a volunteer gently helped Eva Fields sit up in her hospital bed, the 87-year-old patient promptly stood up and starting doing tai chi.
“Come on, move your body,” Fields told volunteer Quinn Watson as both women glided their arms back and forth. “Don’t forget to breathe.”
Fields, at Meriter Hospital this month for an infection in her leg, is one of many hospitalized older adults at risk of developing delirium, a sudden state of confusion or altered mental state that can be triggered by illness, medication or being in a strange environment.
Watson, 24, is one of more than 50 volunteers at Meriter who check in on such patients at least once a day. The volunteers help the patients eat, talk, walk, exercise in bed, play games, listen to music, get comfortable, relax at night and otherwise try to stay mentally healthy.
The service, called Hospital Elder Life Program, or HELP, is designed to prevent delirium and related complications, such as dehydration, falls and bedsores. It can save more than $800 per patient per year in hospital costs, plus thousands more in nursing home costs, according to the Aging Brain Center in Boston, which oversees HELP.
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