Volunteer Part of Growing Program to Help Elderly Patients

“The patients we see are truly special, kind individuals,” says Giovanni Villalta, volunteer with the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) at TBRHSC.
“The patients we see are truly special, kind individuals,” says Giovanni Villalta, volunteer with the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) at TBRHSC.

Meet Giovanni Villalta, a volunteer who has been volunteering at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) since 2013. Over the course of his time here at the hospital, he has worked in many different positions, such as at the information desk, with the activity cart, and most recently with the Hospital Elder Life Program or HELP, which works to stimulate the cognitive function of elderly patients who are admitted into the hospital. On an average day, he and his fellow HELP volunteers sit with individual patients and their family members and talk; sometimes, they’ll have crossword puzzles, newspapers or magazines, and other games to play. Giovanni and his colleagues are doing great work in preventing hospitalized delirium in some of these patients, says Kelsey Lecappelain, HELP Program Coordinator. “In our first year on our pilot unit, HELP has shown success in reducing average elderly hospital stays from 12 to 7 days, reducing delirium rates from 10% down to 1%, reducing the number of senior patients discharged to long-term care from 10% down to 1%, and preventing mental and functional decline in older patients while maintaining their dignity and respect.”

Giovanni originally started volunteering with the HELP program because he wanted to learn how to work with elderly people. He hoped to gain some skills and awareness that he could then take back into other places in the community. The placement really suits him and he has only good things to say about the program and the people he works with. His favourite part of the whole experience is getting to talk with a wide cross-section of people, especially patients. “When patients tell their stories, it makes us [volunteers] feel warm,” he says. He enjoys listening to stories of personal history, such as where the patient came from and how they grew up, but he also likes listening to people’s funny comments. “The patients we see are truly special, kind individuals.”

When asked whether or not his experience at TBRHSC has been rewarding, Giovanni answered with a resounding yes. Giovanni intends to keep volunteering at the hospital for a long time into the future because he genuinely likes what he does, and appreciates the respect he gets from employees as well as patients.

We certainly appreciate all the hard work and time that Giovanni puts into volunteering, and we thank him for being such an outstanding volunteer and positively impacting the lives of so many people.

If you are interested in volunteering at TBRHSC please call 684-6267 or e-mail jeanpied@tbh.net.