July 11, 2011

Many older adult hospital patients are in need of companionship during their stay. They may not have family members or friends who are able to visit them, which can make for a lonely time in the hospital.

The CAMC Institute and CAMC Volunteer Services are conducting a pilot program called Volunteers Informing Patients (VIP). The program pairs a trained CAMC volunteer with an inpatient 65 or older on the 7 South unit at CAMC General Hospital. It is funded in part by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

"The volunteers do everything they can to make the patient's visit more positive. They keep them occupied, talk with them and can help them with things like selecting their meal trays," said Andrew Harman, geriatric project coordinator.

Each volunteer has a cart that they take into the patient's room when they visit that includes personal care items and entertainment items such as crossword puzzles.

The VIP program started in March, and so far, volunteers have seen 125 patients with 500 total encounters.

"We're seeing that close to 70 percent of the encounters are with patients who don't have a friend or family member visiting at that time," Harman said.

"The patient response has been very positive. They've been surprised to see someone and pleased we are making an effort to visit them. We are hoping to grow the program to include other nursing units," he added.

The VIP program is part of a larger focus on geriatrics at CAMC. The CAMC Institute and WVU-Charleston Division have been working together for several years on programs relating to geriatric patient care, research and advanced educational programs that train physicians, nurses and pharmacists to care for a growing older adult population. Ten volunteers currently participate in the VIP program, and more are needed. For more information, contact Harman at(304) 388-6752 or Kristy Fidler at (304) 388-3779.

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