Universal masking is required at LHSC facilities. View our current COVID-19 measures.


For Immediate Release

November 2 , 2012


Patients, staff and volunteers working together to prevent delirium and functional decline


LONDON, OntarioPreventing delirium and functional decline in older patients are goals of the newly implemented Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) in the Acute Care of the Elderly Unit (ACE) at Victoria Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

Ten to 15 percent of seniors are admitted to hospital with delirium, while an additional 15-25 percent develop the disorder following admission.

HELP, a unique program, which integrates principles of geriatrics into acute care practices with standardized programs and individualized interventions, is available to ACE unit patients who are at risk of developing delirium symptoms such as sudden confusion, fluctuations in mental status, disorganized thinking or inattention.

Risk factors for delirium include visual and hearing deficits, mobility and cognitive impairments, dehydration and poor nutrition. There are four themes in HELP, all directed at alleviating these delirium risks. The themes with examples of interventions are: Daily Visiting (orientation activities); Therapeutic Activities (such as reading a newspaper, playing cards or one-on-one discussion); Exercise or Early Mobilization (where the volunteer acts as a "cheerleader"); and, Meal Assistance and/or Fluid Repletion (helping with tray set up or encouraging fluid intake).

"This program has been shown, amongst other outcomes, to reduce the incidence of delirium, improve consistency and quality of care and patient safety,” says Donna Wiancko, Nurse Practitioner, ACE Unit. "This contributes to enhancing our approach to a senior friendly environment on the ACE unit.”
Essential to HELP is the involvement of specially trained volunteers who interact directly with the nurse practitioner and assessed patients and carry out activities under the four intervention themes. All volunteer and patient activities are documented and reviewed daily by the nurse practitioner, who also obtains input from an interprofessional care team. Volunteers are required to undertake extensive training and education prior to working with patients in 20-40 minutes sessions, twice daily.

Cathy Dai, a medical sciences student at Western University, chose to volunteer for the program due to its uniqueness and the opportunity to help patients with a variety of activities. “I am able to see an improvement in the patient and am happy to play a role in helping to enrich their quality of life.”

"I enjoy having a volunteer spend time with me and especially enjoy having the newspaper read to me and participating in activities to help my mobility,” says Veronica Duguay, a 76 year-old visually impaired patient, who has been on the ACE Unit for almost three weeks. “It keeps my mind and body active and makes me feel better.”

The HELP program at LHSC is based on research and evidence that comes from work done at Yale University School of Medicine and demonstrates how best practices can be implemented in an acute care clinical setting.


About London Health Sciences Centre

London Health Sciences Centre has been in the forefront of medicine in Canada for 137 years and offers the broadest range of specialized clinical services in Ontario. Building on the traditions of its founding hospitals to provide compassionate care in an academic teaching setting, London Health Sciences Centre is home to Children’s Hospital, South Street Hospital, University Hospital, Victoria Hospital, two family medical centres, and two research institutes – Children’s Health Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute, a joint research initiative with St. Joseph’s Health Care London. As a leader in medical discovery and health research, London Health Sciences Centre has a history of over 50 international and national firsts and attracts top clinicians and researchers from around the world. As a regional referral centre, London Health Sciences Centre cares for the most medically complex patients including critically injured adults and children in southwestern Ontario and beyond. The hospital’s nearly 15,000 staff, physicians, students and volunteers provide care for more than one million patient visits a year. For more information visit www.lhsc.on.ca 


- 30 -


For media inquiries contact:
Rachelle Wood
Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 77642


Visit the LHSC Media web site at www.lhsc.on.ca/media

Like us on Facebook at LHSC Canada, follow us on Twitter @LHSCCanada and watch us on YouTube at LHSCCanada.