Older adults who present to an emergency department (ED) generally have more-complex medical conditions with complicated care needs and are at high risk for preventable adverse outcomes during their ED visit. The Care and Respect for Elders with Emergencies (CARE) volunteer initiative is a geriatric-focused volunteer program developed to help prevent avoidable complications such as falls, delirium and use of restraints, and functional decline in vulnerable elders in the ED. The CARE program consists of bedside volunteer interventions ranging from conversation to various short activities designed to engage and reorient high-risk, older, unaccompanied individuals in the ED. This article describes the development and characteristics of the CARE program, the services provided, the experiences of the elderly patients and their volunteers, and the growth of the program over time.
CARE volunteers provide elders with the additional attention needed in an often chaotic, unfamiliar environment by enhancing their care, improving satisfaction, and preventing potential decline.