Adam Schmidt and Devin Luce are a dynamic duo of sorts – two volunteers who check in on specific elderly patients, bringing with them cards, crossword puzzles, maybe a menu, but most importantly – conversation and company.
Adam, a Hopkinton resident and physical therapy student at the University of Miami in Florida, and Devin, a Milford resident and Worcester State student interested in becoming a pediatrician, were two summer volunteers who assisted in the Elder Wellness Program at Milford Regional.
When older adults are hospitalized, their daily routines are disrupted; they can lose bearings and become mentally confused and disoriented. The Elder Wellness Program, coordinated through the volunteer services, aims to prevent a decline in mental and physical abilities, which sometimes happens during a hospital stay.
The Elder Wellness Program is modeled after the Hospital Elder Life Program at Yale New Haven Medical Center. Volunteers visit elderly patients a few times a day to make sure they are mentally and physically active during their hospital stay. The program was developed through the work of a multi-disciplinary committee that included nurse managers, palliative care, social services, informatics, volunteer services, and rehabilitation services. The program was piloted in 2014 in one nursing unit, and has been in all units since 2015.
Patients over the age of 70 are assessed for possible triggers for delirium by the nursing staff. Eligible patients are then referred to Kathleen Pavento and Leigh Anne Stevens, Elder Wellness specialists from Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, who then determine a specific plan for each patient and make a referral for an Elder Wellness volunteer.
The volunteers are skilled and caring people that include pre-med, nursing, PA and OT students, as well as retired nurses, social workers and others experienced in caring for elderly family members. The volunteers provide social visits in which they may reminisce or re-orient a patient, provide companionship, play games, lead range of motion exercises, provide mealtime assistance and other therapeutic activities.
Between January 2015 and June 2016, 895 patients were enrolled in the program and those patients received 1,958 elder wellness visits.
“The goal is to have these patients go home in the best shape possible,” says Elaine Willey, director of Volunteer Services.
Pat Dean is a retired nurse who was once a nurse on the 4th Floor at Milford Regional. After 46 years as a nurse, Pat missed working with patients and returned to Milford Regional as a volunteer. The Elder Wellness Program allowed her the opportunity to continue to interact with patients in a meaningful way by visiting with patients, reading to them, listening to their life stories and helping them with exercises to improve mobility.
“Milford Regional is a special place to be,” says Pat. “Our community is so fortunate to have access to such extraordinary care. The Elder Wellness Program is just one example of that – providing care with compassion – and I feel lucky to be part of it all.
For volunteers like Adam and Devin, the experience gives the two future medical professionals the opportunity to interact with patients, particularly elderly patients.
“Since I want to be a doctor, I have to have a lot of patient interaction,” says Devin.
“Every one – from the family to the patient – is very grateful, which makes this so rewarding,” says Adam.
While the volunteers may bring games, books or assist with meal times and physical activity, a simple conversation is most important.
“Conversation is really the heart of it because it allows for other opportunities,” says Adam.
For more information on the Elder Wellness Program, go to www.milfordregional.org/patients-visitors/volunteer-services.