Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP)

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The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) is an innovative model of hospital care designed to prevent delirium and functional decline in hospitalized older adults. HELP uses interdisciplinary staff and targeted intervention protocols to improve patients' outcomes and provide cost-effective care.

The primary goals of the program are:

  • Maintaining cognitive and physical functioning of high risk older adults throughout hospitalization
  • Maximizing independence at discharge
  • Assisting with the transition from hospital to home
  • Preventing unplanned hospital readmissions

These goals have been accomplished using a multicomponent intervention strategy. In addition to targeted interdisciplinary geriatric assessment, HELP uses an innovative volunteer model to provide personal, supportive attention to vulnerable older patients. HELP materials include a structured curriculum for instructing volunteers to deliver daily orientation, early mobilization, feeding assistance, therapeutic activities, a non-pharmacological sleep protocol, and hearing/vision adaptations.

The Hospital Elder Life Program has been successful at returning older adults to their homes or previous living situations with maintained or improved ability to function. With demonstrated clinical- and cost-effectiveness in over 25 published studies, HELP provides training and support for skilled interdisciplinary staff to implement the program, which has been adopted by over 200 hospitals worldwide. Visit the HELP website for more information on how to establish HELP at your hospital.

There are now seven HELP Centers of Excellence, a centralized website and support team, and HELP-related conferences held three times per year in geographically diverse locations.  The 15th Annual HELP Conference was held on April 6-7 2017 in Pittsburgh, PA. The theme this year was "Delirium and Palliative Care" and there were fascinating presentations, break-out sessions and panel discussions on strategies for implementing and sustaining HELP. Sixty-five attendees representing 28 HELP sites, 13 US states, and 5 countries took part in the conference.

Recently, we launched a new HELP website, which offers a variety of resources related to geriatric care and delirium prevention.  The site offers a searchable database of delirium articles, training materials for hospitals interested in implementing HELP, and information specifically targeted towards family members and caregivers. In the past month, over 5,000 individuals have viewed this website (http://www.hospitalelderlifeprogram.org/).

 

The Hartford Project

The Aging Brain Center received a grant in 2015 from the John A Hartford Foundation to promote HELP dissemination. As part of this grant, new HELP sites will be supported with online training and peer-to-peer support.  Webinars and other online learning tools for HELP will be developed to further promote delirium prevention.