Hackensack University Medical Center’s Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP)

September 22, 2021

The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), designed to prevent delirium and improve older patients’ hospital experience, has recently been folded into the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) CoCare portfolio. HackensackUMC has been participating in the HELP model since 2008. The Hackensack University Medical Center program received the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the first certification for Geriatrics Delirium in the U.S in 2011. Recently added to their offered interventions, is a recreational music component whereby musicians perform remotely for patients during their hospitalization. Their latest newsletter was showcased on the AGS virtual blog.

The comprehensive program focuses on preventing delirium, maintaining cognitive abilities, preventing unplanned hospital readmission, and maximizing function in older adult patients. HELP is delivered by a team of elder life specialists, elder life nurses, geriatricians, and specially trained volunteers.

Team members make daily visits to keep older adults fully oriented and counteract the detrimental effects of hospitalization. HELP services include:

  • Assistance with meals
  • Companionship
  • Exercise and mobilization
  • Family support and education
  • Hearing and vision aids
  • Preventing dehydration
  • Sleep enhancement strategies
  • Stimulation and cognitive orientation activities
  • Therapeutic activities

Over the past 13 years, the Hospital Elder Life Program has worked with more than 900 volunteers at Hackensack University Medical Center.

One recent volunteer/intern, Ellie Rokicki, commented “My interactions with patients and being part of the program have affirmed my passion for medicine. I truly enjoyed learning about the importance of delirium prevention, witnessing the multidisciplinary nature of geriatrics, and connecting with patients. Many of these connections were formative in furthering my passion and excitement for patient care.”

“Hospital admissions can be challenging for older adults and their loved ones, particularly if the older adult is living with dementia,” said Manisha Parulekar, M.D., AGSF, FACP, Co-Director of the Center and Division Chief, Geriatrics, and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “HELP is an integral part of the comprehensive geriatric care throughout our inpatient units, for appropriate delirium management and improving patient outcomes.”

“The interdisciplinary HELP team meets the cognitive, physical, and emotional needs of our older patients during hospital admission, which allows for the highest-quality patient experience,” said Mark Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center.

“Our goal is to provide an outstanding experience for our geriatric patients, and we are proud to be among the nation’s leaders in improving geriatric inpatient care,” said Nadine R. Benoit MPA, HELP Program Coordinator/Elder Life Specialist, Hackensack University Medical Center.