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Highland Launches Program to Help Prevent Delirium

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Corey Romesser, M.D.

Highland Hospital has launched the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) in an effort to prevent delirium in older patients. Delirium, a sudden confused state of mind, can impact up to 60 percent of patients 70 and older during their hospital stay, according to studies. HELP brings together hospital staff and volunteers to provide regular assessment, supportive daily visits and recreation opportunities for seniors at risk of delirium. “Delirium can be hard to recognize, and the most important preventive measure is awareness,” said Corey Romesser, M.D., Director of Geriatric Inpatient Services. “HELP volunteers and staff educate patients and families and provide meaningful one-on-one visits to help prevent the onset of this condition.”

Delirium can be caused by medications, infections or being put in an unfamiliar environment like a hospital. Patients at higher risk include those who have dementia, severe illness, dehydration or problems seeing or hearing. Most patients recover from delirium, but recovery can vary from days to weeks. Highland, the leading Rochester hospital for the care of older adults, is the first local hospital to implement HELP. Developed at the Yale School of Medicine, the program has become the national standard for delirium prevention in acute care facilities.

The program utilizes geriatric specialists and specially trained volunteers. Patients deemed at-risk of delirium upon admission must agree to participate in the program. Volunteers visit these patients twice a day to ensure they stay oriented with their surroundings. The volunteers provide meal assistance and recreational activities, such as word games and puzzles, to keep patients as mentally and physically active as possible within the limitations of their conditions. “This is a win-win for our patients and the hospital,” said Michael Sullivan, Director of the program. “HELP has proven to prevent functional decline, reduce length of stay, improve patient satisfaction and prevent unnecessary hospital readmissions.”

HELP launched on the Acute Care for Elders Unit in October and will gradually expand to units throughout the hospital. Additional volunteers are needed. For more information, call (585) 341-6759.

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