Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP)

Allegheny General Hospital
320 E North Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

Contact Person: Kaitlyn Lorey,, 412-852-0276

Areas of Interest:  Developmental psychology, Geriatric psychology, Delirium, Dementia

Description: HELP is a quality improvement program designed to prevent delirium in patients age 70 and older who are hospitalized at Allegheny General Hospital. Volunteers spend quality time interacting with patients, offering services to improve the quality of the patient’s stay, while watching for signs of delirium. Student volunteers work an assigned weekly shift or shifts, Monday through Friday 8am-12pm, noon-4pm or 4pm-8pm, seeing approximately 15  patients each shift, interacting with the patient’s care team, and notating their interactions in our charts. Shift times are set around the patients’ scheduled meals.  Volunteers ensure that the correct meal was delivered and that each patient is properly situated to eat, with their food and tray accessible. Structured training is provided regarding delirium, the hospital setting, and delirium prevention techniques. 

Duties of students: Students must be reliable, compassionate and interested in working in a hospital setting with patients age seventy and older.The HELP program requires a minimum commitment of 124 volunteer hours over one or two semester, and participation can be for course credit, or as a volunteer experience. Once a student accepts an assigned shift(s), reliable and punctual attendance is required each week during the semester.

There are six risk factors which put the hospitalized elderly at risk for developing delirium. These risk factors are:  Cognition impairment (such as memory loss, diminished speed of processing information, dementia); dehydration; drug or alcohol withdrawal, and vision, hearing and mobility impairment.

Students learn specific protocols to address these risk factors, including orienting patients, encouraging fluids, offering a magnifier or an assistive hearing device to the patient. Students may also play a board game or cards with the patient, amongst other therapeutic activities. Some students may learn to feed patients or perform limited range of motion exercises with the patient.

Additional Site Requirements: 

  • Recruitment and selection for this experience is typically finalized in advance, so please apply as early as possible.
  • To apply please visit . When selecting a sight, please make sure it says HELP!

Terms Offered: We offer shifts year round: Spring (January-April), Summer (May-August), and Fall (September-December)

Number of Students: We have space for 42 students each term.