By David Reuben, M.D. – Special the The Mirror
Hospitals can be lonely places for patients, especially older adults who may have few if any family members or friends living nearby to visit them.
That’s why the UCLA Geriatrics Program has launched a Companion Care Program for their inpatient Geriatrics Unit at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. Under this program, specially trained volunteers provide individualized companionship to older patients while they are hospitalized.
Typical activities provided by these companions, who are identifiable in the hospital by their bright green polo shirts, include reading, playing games, assisting with feeding and accompanying patients on walks under a nurse’s supervision.
Geriatric companions also help interested patients tell their life story through the “Living History Program,” a process designed to improve the connection between caregivers and patients by encouraging patients to share life experiences.
To date, the hospital has recruited more than 50 volunteers to serve as geriatric companions. Eventually, they hope to have about 200 companions on board to work in four-hour shifts from 7am to 11 pm daily. Anyone 18 years or older can become a companion.
If you would like to volunteer, or for more information, please email Christy Lau, [email protected], or call her at 310.312.0531.
The Companion Care Program was made possible through the vision and generosity of the Samuel Steinberg Family Foundation. UCLA Geriatrics is extremely grateful for its support.
Dr. David Reuben is chief of the highly-regarded UCLA Geriatrics Program in Santa Monica and Westwood.