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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Older Adult Loneliness (Research, Video 3:57)


Loneliness lurks in everyone’s life at some point. Older adult women and men often live during a time when their peers and family members are dying. Their lifestyles readjust due to various reasons such as declining health or retirement. They can be deeply impacted by loneliness, a risk factor for depression. Do women and men experience loneliness in the same ways? That’s what this research on loneliness examined. 

With 1079 participants ranging in age from 64-94, loneliness was measured during face-to-face interviews. An analysis of the association of loneliness with socio-demographic, physical, and psychological factors rendered the following results:

       1) The mean level of loneliness was not significantly different between women and men.
   
       2) Among the oldest old (85+), loneliness was higher in women.

       3) Women were more disadvantaged regarding living arrangements as well as physical and mental   health.

       4) Men had more adverse mental health conditions associated significantly with loneliness such as depression, low satisfaction with life, and low resilience.

       5) Living alone was not associated with loneliness.

       6) Lower social network was associated with a three-time higher risk for feeling lonely in both women and men.

These findings should be applied when ways to alleviate loneliness are considered. Year-round regular cards, letters, and visits from family, friends, volunteers, and others can do so much to improve older adults’ self-esteem and general quality of life. The average person can help older adults by offering assistance, sharing activities and helpful information with them, and by being an encouraging listener. This video conveys the overwhelming effects of loneliness, being forgotten, and the joy of being remembered.



Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Elective Holiday Surgery: Who Does That? (Research, Video 2:59)


Would you choose to have surgery during the holidays? Do you think most people would? It’s a common belief among hospital staff that patients would prefer being at home during the holidays and not getting surgery at a medical facility. Staff members even reduce the surgery times because they think there will be a lack of interest. After all, the holidays are supposed to be all about love and good times, not having operations. Right? Actually, there is little evidence to prove that is the case.

Let’s look at the research on elective surgery during the holidays and see what  310 patients attending surgical or urological outpatients had to say. They were given a self-completion questionnaire asking them whether they would accept admission over Christmas and Easter holidays if they had a choice. Overall 77 per cent of males and 76 per cent of females would accept admission over the Christmas holidays for elective surgery. This rises to 87 per cent and 88 per cent over the Easter holidays.

Who are these people who would choose surgery during the holidays? They are older patients, widows or widowers, retired patients, and patients with severe symptoms and conditions. Contrary to the perceived opinions of hospital staff members, these patients said they would accept admission for elective surgery over the Christmas or Easter holiday periods.

A common surgery for older adults is knee replacement. In this video, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Marc E. Rankin uses a model of a leg bone and a thigh bone to demonstrate how knee replacement surgery is done:



Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How Old is Too Old? (Research, Hospice Story)


How old is too old? How long would you really like to live? How about 120 years with the help of technology? Some people think being around dying patients must always be sad because everybody fears death, and no one really wants to die. As a hospice volunteer, I have had several patients who could prove them wrong. These nursing home residents actually stated they looked forward to death and gave reasons that had nothing to do with depression. This is what hospice patient Rose and I discussed about her upcoming death (Excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes):

“How old did you tell me I was?” Rose asked.

“You’re ninety-nine, and you’ll be a hundred years old on your next birthday.”

“A hundred years old is too old. I don’t think I want to be that old,” Rose shared.

“There are three other ladies in this nursing home who are older than that. One is a hundred three. We talked to her last week during your wheelchair ride.”

Without realizing it, Rose was in good company. The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. It turns out that most Americans would like to die before they turn 100, even if there were life-extending technologies that could extend their lives to 120 years old. Many felt that the best lifespan would be between the ages of 79 and 100 for these reasons:

      1) Life-extending treatments would be offered before side effects were understood.

      2) Extended lifespans would put a strain on natural resources.

      3) Interestingly, 58% felt that extending lifespans to 120 would be “fundamentally unnatural.”

Rose had another perspective, and this is how our conversation concluded:

“How much longer will it be before I make one hundred? I don’t know if I want to wait too much longer, ” Rose explained.

I responded, “It’s only one more month. I remember you said you had spiritual talks with your minister. If you decide to wait, I’ll get you a big balloon that looks like a birthday cake.”

Smiling, Rose said, “I guess I could wait. Yes, I think I will wait. That way I can celebrate my hundredth birthday. When I do get to heaven, I can tell everybody I lived to be one hundred.”

And that’s exactly what she did. How about you? If technology could extend your life, would you want to live 120 years?

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Are Holiday Suicide Rates Higher? (Video 1:33)

The annual excitement building up from Thanksgiving through the Christmas season is commonly believed to ignite depressive feelings in people who may feel despondent, on the outside observing the joy of others. Some may conclude that more people probably commit suicide during this time of year. Is this true?

Let’s examine one form of suicide that includes ingesting poison as a way to end life. Do particular days of the week, seasons, or holidays really have an impact on the number of attempted and completed suicides that occur by poisoning? In this research on poison suicides, calls were recorded in the National Poison Database System coded as "suspected suicide." Exposures were evaluated by day, season, and holidays and compared to control dates.There were 1,065,067 exposures related to suicide attempts with completions in 0.4% of cases. Sundays and Mondays for adults and Mondays and Tuesdays for ages below 19 years were the most common times when suicides were committed. Spring and fall had higher numbers of exposures than summer and winter. New Year's Day also had a higher number of exposures, but Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas had fewer exposures. In conclusion, this research on suicides by poisons indicated that the beginning of the week, spring and fall, and New Year's Day were associated with higher numbers of ingestions with suicidal intent.

What about suicides in general and globally? Once again, the suicide rate does not peak during the holidays. Suicides are most common in spring and summer. Why do people kill themselves more in the spring? The following video explains this phenomenon further:




Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.