Evaluate the clinical outcomes for patients with dementia, delirium, or at risk for delirium supported by the person-centered volunteer program in rural acute hospitals.
A non-randomized, controlled trial.
Older adults admitted to seven acute hospitals in rural Australia. Intervention (n = 270) patients were >65 years with a diagnosis of dementia or delirium or had risk factors for delirium and received volunteer services. Control (n = 188) patients were admitted to the same hospital 12 months prior to the volunteer program and would have met eligibility criteria for the volunteer program, had it existed.
Trained volunteers provided 1:1 person-centered care with a focus on nutrition and hydration support, hearing and visual aids, activities, and orientation.
Medical record audits provided data on volunteer visits, diagnoses, length of stay (LOS), behavioral incidents, readmission, specialling, mortality, admission to residential care, falls, pressure ulcers, and medication use.
Across all sites, there was a significant reduction in rates of 1:1 specialling and 28 day readmission for patients receiving the volunteer intervention. LOS was significantly shorter for the control group. There were no differences in other patient outcomes for the intervention and control groups.
The volunteer intervention is a safe, effective, and replicable way to support older acute patients with dementia, delirium, or risk factors for delirium in rural hospitals. Further papers will report on cost effectiveness, family carer, volunteer, and staff experiences of the program.