H.E.L.P. – Small Meaningful Actions Prevents Decline in Patients' Mental and Physical Health

​​Matthew VMathew believes that a small but meaningful contribution to a patient's care is the best part of his volunteer job. His "small actions" of helping elderly patients set up meal trays, take short walks around the hospital, or simply listens to their concerns, may appear to be small, but have a huge impact on patient's recovery and lives.

As an undergraduate Physics student at the University of Waterloo with an interest in medicine, Mathew was keen to volunteer with the Hospital Elder Life (HELP) program at Toronto Western Hospital. Growing up, Mathew always enjoyed volunteering and when he heard about the HELP program, Mathew knew that this would provide him with invaluable experiences. 

He worked closely with his patients as part of their health care team. He applied techniques and knowledge he learned in the HELP training sessions to assist patients and staff. The goal of the Hospital Elder Life Program is to prevent a decline in a patient's physical and mental health during their stay through cognitive orientation, cognitive simulation, walking assistance and social support. This program is also designed to allow older adults to return home and back to the society at the maximal level of independence.

Matthew's experience in HELP has helped him become a better communicator, allowed him to be part of a multi-disciplinary health care team, and reinforced his desire to be in medicine. One of his favourite memories from this experience was assisting in the training of a new cohort of HELP volunteers. He explained that it was gratifying to be able to help train the next generation of volunteers and pass on the knowledge and skills that he had acquired throughout the years.  When he started a new and exciting chapter in his life, medical school, he was able to bring his patient experiences from HELP with him.  He knows that those experiences will help him become a better and more compassionate doctor in the future.

Hospital Elder Life Program

The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) is a comprehensive, evidence-based, patient-care program that provides optimal care for older persons in the hospital. Dr. Sharon K. Inouye and her colleagues at the Yale University School of Medicine originally designed HELP to prevent delirium among hospitalized older persons. The program also prevents functional decline and falls and allows older adults to return home at the maximal level of independence. HELP does this by keeping hospitalized older people oriented to their surroundings, meeting their needs for nutrition, fluids, and sleep and keeping them mobile within the limitations of their physical condition."

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