Volunteers join forces with clinicians to H.E.L.P provide seniors with the best patient care

When Barb Goersch heard of an opportunity to be part of a new program specifically designed to provide care to seniors at risk, she knew she had to help. No stranger to volunteer service, Barb has volunteered at Trillium Health Centre for three years in nine different departments. She has held a variety of roles in both administration and patient care. She has also devoted her service to her community to assist abuse victims. Now, she holds a vital role in Trillium Health Centre’s new Hospital Elder Life Program (H.E.L.P).

“Helping people is innate to me,” says Barb. “When I visit a patient, I’m visiting a friend. Even if I’m giving them something as simple as a glass of water, it is very rewarding to be the one to put a smile on their face.”

H.E.L.P is a joint effort between Trillium’s Volunteer Resources department and Seniors Health and Wellness initiative. The pilot was launched on March 1, 2011 to help decrease functional and cognitive decline in hospitalized seniors 70 years of age and older who are at risk for delirium and physical deterioration. Volunteers support clinicians in delivering care to elderly patients. Every day a volunteer is on site to run activities such as daily re-orientation, socialization, games, reading, trivia, puzzles, meal time assistance and bed exercises.

“Volunteers can get what patients need, when they need it,” says Barb. “I truly feel like I’m making as positive an impact on the patient’s life as they are on mine. The level of patient gratitude really fulfills patient-volunteer satisfaction.”

“Volunteers have always been an integral part of the Trillium family,” says Lisete Figueiredo, manager, Volunteer Resources at Trillium. “With the inception of the H.E.L.P program at Trillium, volunteers are able to provide an enhanced element of care that benefits the patients, while supporting the clinical team.”

“Patients are motivated and inspired by what we do,” says Barb. “When they know someone cares about them, it means everything to them. Building friendships is what it’s all about. The H.E.L.P program does just that.”

“Sometimes my friends are too busy to visit, the H.E.L.P program fills this gap,” says patient Jane Knight. “I’m always glad to see the volunteers. Just being there is great. They help with the little things.”

“Volunteers bring a different aspect to the patient experience,” says Joanne Chen, Elder Life Specialist at Trillium. “They can spend quality time with the patients, complementing the service staff provide. Having that human interaction with patients a few times a day can improve cognition as well as quality of life.”

The H.E.L.P program has been well received by both Trillium staff and patients. To date, 771 patients have been screened for risk factors of decline and 160 patients have benefited from the program.