Objectives: To describe the Hospital Elder Life Program, a new model of care designed to prevent functional and cognitive decline of older persons during hospitalization. PROGRAM STRUCTURE AND PROCESS: All patients aged > or =70 years on specified units are screened on admission for six risk factors (cognitive impairment, sleep deprivation, immobility, dehydration, vision or hearing impairment). Targeted interventions for these risk factors are implemented by an interdisciplinary team-including a geriatric nurse specialist, Elder Life Specialists, trained volunteers, and geriatricians--who work closely with primary nurses. Other experts provide consultation at twice-weekly interdisciplinary rounds.
Intervention: Adherence is carefully tracked. Quality assurance procedures and performance reviews are an integral part of the program.
Program outcomes: To date, 1,507 patients have been enrolled during 1,716 hospital admissions. The overall intervention adherence rate was 89% for at least partial adherence with all interventions during 37,131 patient-days. Our results indicate that only 8% of admissions involved patients who declined by 2 or more points on MMSE and only 14% involved patients who declined by 2 or more points on ADL score. Comparative results for the control group from the clinical trial were 26% and 33%, and from previous studies 14 to 56% and 34 to 50% for cognitive and functional decline, respectively. Effectiveness of the program for delirium prevention and of the program's nonpharmacologic sleep protocol have been demonstrated previously.
Conclusions: These results suggest that the Hospital Elder Life Program successfully prevents cognitive and functional decline in at-risk older patients. The program is unique in its hospital-wide focus; in providing skilled staff and volunteers to implement interventions; and in targeting practical interventions toward evidence-based risk factors. Future studies are needed to evaluate cost-effectiveness and longterm outcomes of the program as well as its effectiveness in non-hospital settings.