Hackensack University Medical Center’s Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP)

HACKENSACK, NJ – The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), designed to prevent delirium and improve older patients’ hospital experience, has recently been folded into the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) CoCare portfolio. HackensackUMC has been participating in the HELP model since 2008. The Hackensack University Medical Center program received the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the first certification for Geriatrics Delirium in the U.S in 2011.  Recently added to their offered interventions, is a recreational music component whereby musicians perform remotely for patients during their hospitalization. Their latest newsletter was showcased on the AGS virtual blog. 

The comprehensive program focuses on preventing delirium, maintaining cognitive abilities, preventing unplanned hospital readmission, and maximizing function in older adult patients. HELP is delivered by a team of elder life specialists, elder life nurses, geriatricians, and specially trained volunteers. 

Team members make daily visits to keep older adults fully oriented and counteract the detrimental effects of hospitalization. HELP services include: 

  • Assistance with meals
  • Companionship
  • Exercise and mobilization
  • Family support and education
  • Hearing and vision aids
  • Preventing dehydration
  • Sleep enhancement strategies
  • Stimulation and cognitive orientation activities
  • Therapeutic activities

Over the past 13 years, the Hospital Elder Life Program has worked with more than 900 volunteers at Hackensack University Medical Center.  

One recent volunteer/intern, Ellie Rokicki, commented “My interactions with patients and being part of the program have affirmed my passion for medicine. I truly enjoyed learning about the importance of delirium prevention, witnessing the multidisciplinary nature of geriatrics, and connecting with patients.  Many of these connections were formative in furthering my passion and excitement for patient care.”

“Hospital admissions can be challenging for older adults and their loved ones, particularly if the older adult is living with dementia,” said Manisha Parulekar, M.D., AGSF, FACP, Co-Director of the Center and Division Chief, Geriatrics, and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “HELP is an integral part of the comprehensive geriatric care throughout our inpatient units, for appropriate delirium management and  improving patient outcomes.” 

“The interdisciplinary HELP team meets the cognitive, physical, and emotional needs of our older patients during hospital admission, which allows for the highest-quality patient experience,” said Mark Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center. 

“Our goal is to provide an outstanding experience for our geriatric patients, and we are proud to be among the nation’s leaders in improving geriatric inpatient care,” said Nadine R. Benoit MPA, HELP Program Coordinator/Elder Life Specialist, Hackensack University Medical Center. 



Hackensack University Medical Center, a 771-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in New Jersey. Founded in 1888 as Bergen County’s first hospital, it was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet®-recognized hospital for nursing excellence. The academic flagship of Hackensack Meridian Health, Hackensack University Medical Center ranked #1 in New Jersey and #7 in the New York metro area by U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-2022 “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll, making it the only hospital in New Jersey with the #1 adult and children’s hospital rankings. Hackensack University Medical Center is also rated as High Performing in 14 specialties procedures and conditions, and conditions, and sets the standard for all New Jersey hospitals in several specialties. Highlights include: New Jersey’s only nationally-ranked Neurology & Neurosurgery and Urology programs; also ranked nationally in Cardiology & Heart Surgery. New Jersey’s Best Urology and Neurology & Neurosurgery programs, ever since 2013. New Jersey’s Best Cancer Center is John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, which is part of the NCI-designated Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Cardiology & Heart Surgery, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Geriatrics and Orthopedics rank among the top in New Jersey. The campus is home to facilities such as John Theurer Cancer Center, the #1 hospital for cancer care in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-2022 “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll; the Heart & Vascular Hospital, and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, recognized as being in the top 1% of children’s hospitals in the nation and #1 children’s hospital in New Jersey by U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-22 “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll. Hackensack University Medical Center’s comprehensive clinical research portfolio includes studies focused on neuroscience, precision medicine, translational medicine, immunotherapy, cell therapy, and vaccine development. 


Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals – JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness center, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 36,000 team members, and 7,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having more top-ranked hospitals than anyone in New Jersey, as recognized by U.S. News & World Report, 2020-21. Hackensack University Medical Center is the only hospital in New Jersey with the #1 adult and children’s hospital rankings.

John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center is New Jersey’s best cancer center, as recognized by U.S. News & World Report, 2020-21.  This premier cancer center is also the largest and most comprehensive center dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, management, research, screenings, and preventive care as well as survivorship of patients  with all types of cancers. John Theurer Cancer Center is part of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, an NCI designated comprehensive cancer center. 

Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to ensure that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its campus in Nutley and Clifton. The Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), housed in a fully renovated state-of-the-art facility, seeks to translate current innovations in science to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening and disabling conditions.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies. To learn more, visit www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org.