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Specially selected and trained
“We start as strangers, and the more we talk, the more we connect,” Batoul Rabaa explained.
“The time we spend with a patient is unlike any hour of the rest of their day,” Andrew Pryor said. “It’s relaxed, total one-on-one interaction.”
Batoul and Andrew 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.
Preparing for the future
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.
“I love being a HELP volunteer because there is nothing like making someone feel better."
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.
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.
Helping at-risk patients
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 are provided by Methodist Hospital’s volunteer services department, gerontological specialists, nursing and therapy staff.
“The program is so beneficial from a medical standpoint,” said Andrew. “It’s so important to help the patients keep their minds moving, and it’s such a rewarding, enjoyable volunteer activity.”
“I love being a HELP volunteer because there is nothing like making someone feel better,” said Batoul.
Read more in The Meaning of Care Magazine | Winter 2014