The Modified and Extended Hospital Elder Life Program: A remote model of care to expand delirium prevention

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2023 Mar;71(3):935-945. doi: 10.1111/jgs.18212. Epub 2023 Jan 13.


Background: Delirium is a common complication of hospitalization and is associated with poor outcomes. Multicomponent delirium prevention strategies such as the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) have proven effective but rely on face-to-face intervention protocols and volunteer staff, which was not possible due to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. We developed the Modified and Extended Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP-ME), an innovative adaptation of HELP for remote and/or physically distanced applications.

Methods: HELP-ME protocols were adapted from well-established multicomponent delirium prevention strategies and were implemented at four expert HELP sites. Each site contributed to the protocol modifications and compilation of a HELP-ME Operations Manual with standardized protocols and training instructions during three expert panel working groups. Implementation was overseen and monitored during seven learning sessions plus four coaching sessions from January 8, 2021, through September 24, 2021. Feasibility of implementing HELP-ME was measured by protocol adherence rates. Focus groups were conducted to evaluate the acceptability, provide feedback, and identify facilitators and barriers to implementation.

Results: A total of 106 patients were enrolled across four sites, and data were collected for 214 patient-days. Overall adherence was 82% (1473 completed protocols/1798 patient-days), achieving our feasibility target of >75% overall adherence. Individual adherence rates ranged from 55% to 96% across sites for the individual protocols. Protocols with high adherence rates included the nursing delirium protocol (96%), nursing medication review (96%), vision (89%), hearing (87%), and orientation (88%), whereas lower adherence occurred with fluid repletion (64%) and range-of-motion exercises (55%). Focus group feedback was generally positive for acceptability, with recommendations that an optimal approach would be hybrid, balancing in-person and remote interventions for potency and long-term sustainability.

Conclusions: HELP-ME was fully implemented at four HELP sites, demonstrating feasibility and acceptability. Testing hybrid approaches and evaluating effectiveness is recommended for future work.

Keywords: COVID-19; delirium; delirium prevention; multicomponent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19*
  • Delirium* / epidemiology
  • Delirium* / prevention & control
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Pandemics