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Aged Care Therapeutic Interventions by Volunteers

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Project Added:
31 January 2012
Last updated:
10 October 2014

Aged Care Therapeutic Interventions by Volunteers (ACTIVe Program)

by Acute Aged Care Ward, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital


The ACTIVe Program on the Acute Aged Care Ward at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was designed to improve the hospital experience of older patients.

Elderly hospitalised patients can experience a decline in their physical and mental abilities. This can make it difficult for them to fully recover from illness and return to their previous ability to function.

Trained volunteers providing therapeutic interventions can reduce the consequences of delirium and assist in maintaining patient cognition and physical functioning. Volunteers play an important role in providing sympathetic support, encouragement and companionship to older patients and families.

ACTIVe Program Poster (PDF File pdf - 1 MB)

Volunteer leading group through exercises with chairs

"I love listening to the patient's story regardless of their state of mind, they all have their own individual story to tell"


The main aims of the ACTIVe Program are to:

  • Provide companionship, reassurance and support to elderly patients
  • Assist patients in maintaining cognitive and physical functioning
  • Reduce the risk of patient falls amongst the elderly hospitalised patients
  • Maintain patient alertness and decrease boredom during hospitalisation
  • Provide practical assistance with meals and hydration
  • Provide assistance with mobility
  • Provide physical exercise and interaction with other patients, nursing and allied health workers
  • Assist with the transition from the hospital to the community
  • Allow patients to be discharged from the hospital as independent as possible
  • Prevent unplanned readmission


Volunteers were recruited to provided one or more of four main interventions:

  • meal assistance
  • mobility assistance
  • companionship
  • therapeutic activities.

Five volunteers were recruited in July 2011, increasing to twenty by October 2011.

As the success of the program became more apparent and the number of volunteers increased, an exercise class was added twice a week in early September 2011. This was to assist in maintaining patient's physical functioning and to encourage interaction amongst patients.

Volunteer showing flash cards to a group

The Nursing Unit Manager and the Clinical Nurse Educator provided education and training on dementia/delirium management as well as practical demonstrations on how to provide companionship and deliver diversional activities to patients. The volunteers also receive education from the Speech Pathologist, Dietician and Physiotherapist to assist them in carrying out meal and mobility assistance.

"Many aged clients do not have any families or friends and they love to see someone standing next to their bed just to give them a greeting".

The nursing staff on the ward complete the intervention lists each day for each volunteer. The list identifies which intervention/s the patients would benefit from that day and what level of assistance they may require.

There is opportunity for the volunteers to make comments if they notice any changes in the patient's baseline or to add any other specific information that may assist the next volunteer or the staff to deliver care.

ACTIVe Volunteer Position Description (PDF File pdf - 53 KB)

Aged Care Therapeutic Interventions by Volunteers (PDF File pdf - 73 KB)


Since commencement of the program:

  • 20 volunteers recruited
  • 266 patients were visited by volunteers
  • more than 1020 interventions provided
  • more than 55 attendances at exercise class which only commenced in early September 2011
  • decrease in the number of nurse specials required for patients who are a high falls risk and have a delirium

The volunteers keep patients up to date with current events and news as well as taking time out to reminisce about old times by looking through photo albums and books. This has encouraged patient's families and carers to be more involved in the patient's management during hospitalisation.

"I am absolutely loving volunteering at 8W1 ... I have found that the feeding program works very well – even if all the help a patient sometimes requires is to open the juice container"

Patients who are confused are generally reorientated to time, place and person and are kept stimulated during the day. This reduces the likelihood of confusion and agitation in the evening.

Positive feedback from staff and volunteers has shown that the program supports ward staff in the prevention and/or management of delirium and functional decline in elderly patients. It has also shown that the program has contributed to improved patient, family and carer satisfaction.


Project Officer
Sydney Local Health District
Tel 02 9515 9556 or 02 9515 7538 (ward)

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