Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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St. Joseph's Care Group

About St. Joseph's Care Group


Lending a 'Helping Hand': Celebrating HELP Program Volunteers

Lending a helping hand
Lending a helping hand

Date: 2024-03-26

Earlier this month, we celebrated World Delirium Day on March 13, 2024. To recognize the importance of preventing delirium in seniors at St. Joseph's Hospital, we're highlighting the positive impact of our Hospital Elder Life Program as told through the eyes of one of our dedicated volunteers.

Ana first began volunteering with St. Joseph's Care Group in March 2023 after learning about the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP). Since joining the program, she's been a beacon of warmth and support for clients at St. Joseph's Hospital.

"It's about the compassion we need to feel in our hearts for people," says Ana. "To be grateful for everything we have in our life."

Seniors with long-term stays at the hospital are at risk of developing delirium. Delirium is a sudden state of confusion or change in mental state and/or decline in physical function, where they are unable to do basic self-care. It is also very common for seniors to feel lonely or isolated during these long-term hospital stays. That's where the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) comes in.

HELP leverages the contributions of volunteers like Ana to provide comfort and care to our senior clients. Through preventative interventions, volunteers can prevent delirium and physical decline. Specially trained volunteers like Ana provide key supports, including but not limited to:

  • Orientation to their surroundings, with reminders to use hearing aids and eye glasses to encourage alertness and involvement in care;
  • Socialization and activities to encourage mental stimulation;
  • Activities that encourage movement (e.g. walking);
  • Mealtime companionship to encourage hydration and eating.
Another HELP volunteer supporting a client
Another HELP volunteer supporting a client

Ana explains that each client has their own experiences and it's important to talk to them and listen to what they need in the moment. Some people might need physical supports, while others just want someone to keep them company and talk with them about their favourite things. "I was able to understand how people in the hospital might need help, a hand, or just someone to listen," says Ana.

Before she started volunteering with HELP, Ana served as a caregiver for loved ones in Colombia. Her experiences have shaped her into a compassionate and empathetic person who helps foster a person-centred environment for our clients. Ana's individualized approach ensures that each client's specific needs are met with care and consideration, and week after week, her post-shift stories never fail to inspire.

"One of my clients loved reading so we went to the hospital library," explains Ana. "She was very happy to walk around, look at the books, and borrow a few."

"There's a lot of trust and they share things with me when we talk," cautions Ana. She also reiterates the importance of getting consent from clients, respecting their decisions and boundaries, and encouraging their independence. "It's only for a short time but I try to give them a different experience, a moment of living in a different situation."

We extend our gratitude to Ana and all the HELP volunteers for their commitment to our clients. Together, with volunteers like Ana and the inspiring work of programs like HELP, we can continue to make a meaningful difference - no matter how small - in the lives of our clients.

For more information on how you can volunteer with the HELP Program at St. Joseph's Care Group, please visit us here.


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