Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tribute to a Nun with Alzheimer’s Dementia

When I travel back in time, I find them. They were teachers, mentors, neighbors, caring people who crossed my path at various stages of my journey through life. They were village members who loved me, people who offered their unique support and understood that every child belonged to them. Listening with their hearts and hearing me were their special strengths. Introducing me to possibilities I never considered was an added bonus. I look back in awe at these role models who set a high bar and challenged me to prove them right.

I was born and raised in the segregated Jim Crow South where every day was a reminder of my unimportance to the larger society. Back in the day, I met a wonderful nun named Sr. Mary who became part of a growing circle of individuals who helped me know I mattered. Although she was never my classroom teacher at school, she taught me a lot about life when unanswered questions invaded my childhood thoughts. Young and vibrant, she strolled the playground during recess, while happily initiating nurturing discussions with students. I welcomed conversations with this engaging guru whose encouragement lifted me higher.

Years later, I located and phoned Sr. Mary to express my appreciation, find out how she was doing, and introduce her to the adult I had become. A former school principal, she was living at a convent in another state where she served hospice patients and the elderly. Of course, she was elated to know I had also become a school principal and was a hospice volunteer who had authored a book about hospice and eldercare. Time passed with long-distance calls and snail-mails about our busy lives. In more recent years, Sr. Mary developed Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Living in a nursing home, she continues to decline physically and mentally, but her warm heart remains wrinkle-free.

Savoring memories, I celebrate Sr. Mary, one of numerous dedicated nuns who have inspired countless others in an unending ripple effect that enhances the world. At a time when multitudes search for moments to fall in love with something, somebody, or some place, I am assured that an incredible woman who now has dementia favored me with goodness long ago.

Having known many people with dementia, I understand what really matters is the spirit of our friendship, not whether she remembers my name or identity. Regardless of how she appears or behaves on her roller coaster of reality, Sr. Mary will never be Sr. Alzheimer's. And when this well deserved tribute is shared with her, perhaps she will smile and enjoy this standing ovation from someone in her loving village, someone offering unique support, someone to whom she belongs.

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.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog               Website

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hospital Emergency Department Treatment for Older Adults (Research, Video 3:47)

How was your last visit to the hospital emergency department (ED)? Were you satisfied with your wait time before and after you were placed in a room? Could this time have been used in a more productive manner while you waited? What about your interactions with healthcare providers? Do you think they showed you genuine concern? Consider the general environment. Did it meet your particular needs in terms of comfort and practicality? Was your experience one that you would recommend for older adults? These are the kinds of questions that need to be addressed to meet the unique needs of this population.

Hospital emergency department research using audio-taped encounters of patients was done to assess the proportion of time that patients spent in conversation with providers during emergency department visits. Analysis revealed that patients with older age, longer visits, and those requiring a procedure had more talk-time. Overall results indicated that approximately 75% of patients’ time in care areas is spent not interacting with providers. That is a large amount of time that could be better spent in ways that can both enrich the process and educate patients.

Highland Hospital in Rochester, New York is featured in this video as an example of a hospital that says it exhibits geriatric friendliness through protocols and physical changes in the emergency department.

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.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mardi Gras in America: Older Adults Have a Ball (Video 1:57)

No matter where they live, older adults in cities across America  love participating annually in the popular celebration of Mardi Gras. This year, that wonderful day known also as “Fat Tuesday” will fall on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, the day before the Christian season of Lent starts. Older adults celebrating this world-famous Carnival season often have parties and small parades. In New Orleans, street parades attracting thousands of local residents and curious tourists occur daily. Parades are held during the day and at night.

Growing up in New Orleans, I loved this magical season. Mardi Gras parades created wonderful memories for me. The excitement of swimming in an ocean of festivity, the buoyancy from living fantastic fantasies thrilled my senses. They connected me with the same wave of wonderment flowing through every child who ever lived on this planet.

I store my New Orleans memories in a marvelous, mental, treasure chest painted with purple, green, and gold brush strokes, the official colors of Mardi Gras. All grown up, I still smile when I look inside. No doubt, many older adults will be smiling during Mardi Gras season this year and in the future.

Upcoming Mardi Gras Dates:

Mardi Gras can fall on any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9.

Mardi Gras Day

February 25

February 16
February 17

March 1
February 9

February 21
February 28

February 13

Through the years, I have featured older adults celebrating in various cities. Join residents in this Mardi Gras celebration at McMahon Tomlinson Nursing Center in Lawton, Oklahoma. Let’s hear it for Oklahoma! They had a ball with a parade, dancing, and great music from the 77th Army Band. The parade has started! Have some punch! As they say in New Orleans (and sometimes in Oklahoma), “Laissez le bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!”

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.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Older Adult Abuse: Multicultural Attitudes, Intervention (Research, Video 2:16)

Abuse toward older adults continues to be a major concern in terms of barriers for prevention and treatment. Some barriers are due to how members of this population from different racial-ethnic backgrounds perceive, experience, and try to solve problems related to their own mistreatment. Multicultural focus group discussions on older adult abuse case vignettes in the United States reveal the following attitudes of African Americans, English-speaking Latinos, Spanish-speaking Latinos, non-Latino Whites, and African American caregivers for older adults:

1)    While older adult abuse definitions were similar across various racial-ethnic groups, Latino participants introduced additional themes of machismo, respect, love, and early intervention to stop abuse. These themes indicate that beliefs about mistreatment are determined by culture in addition to race and ethnicity.

2)    Most attitudinal differences occurred within the groups, suggesting that perceptions about abuse vary among individuals in addition to culture and racial-ethnic backgrounds.

3)    In identifying abuse scenarios, some participants felt that particular forms of mistreatment are actually the continued persistence of intimate partner violence into old age.

4)    Participants also shared that victims sometimes tolerate abuse and refuse to report it in exchange for perceived benefits such as companionship, security, and fear of placement in institutions.

This research reveals the important need for person-centered forms of intervention that include cultural and racial-ethnic factors as well as individual preferences and care needs when addressing solutions to problems of abuse toward older adults.

Older adult abuse includes not only physical and emotional mistreatment, but also neglect, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation, which alone victimizes one out of 20 older adults in the United States. For more details regarding financial exploitation, refer to the Lichtenberg Financial Decision-Making Screening and Rating Scales information posted by the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology directed by Dr. Peter Lichtenberg. 

Theft and fraud by loved ones are on the rise. The following WXYZ-TV Detroit video segment led by Sherry Margolis features Arthur Green who was financially exploited by his granddaughter.  

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, January 31, 2015

Holocaust Survivors: Adult Diseases (Research, Video 3:21)

Previous research about adults who were born during the Holocaust indicates that they suffer health problems as a result of being exposed to starvation and stress between conception and early infancy. Medically this effect is referred to as fetal origin of adult disease.

A more recent Holocaust research study was done to determine whether exposure to the Holocaust from preconception to early infancy is a cause of chronic morbidity (diseased state) in adulthood. Participants included 70 European Jews born in countries under Nazi rule from 1940-1945. This study began with interviews to determine if they had any chronic illnesses. A similar control group of 230 Israeli-born individuals also participated. Prevalence of selected risk factors and chronic diseases was compared between the groups.

Results indicated that the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and morbidity was significantly higher in the exposed group with diseases such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, angina pectoris, and congestive heart failure. The prevalence of cancer, peptic ulcer disease, headaches/migraines, and anxiety/depression was also higher in the exposed group. These results indicate that exposure to Holocaust conditions in early life may be associated with a higher prevalence of certain diseases in adulthood.

In this video, Betty Gold explains how she and her family escaped from the Nazis and hid in a cave in the Polish forest. Her family learned that their hiding place had been discovered, and they would be murdered that night:

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.
 Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Physician-Assisted Suicide: Hospice-Palliative Volunteers' Opinions (Research, Video 2:58)

Hospice-palliative volunteers bring a unique perspective to the ongoing debate about physician-assisted suicide. Already legal in several states (Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico), the law requires that the terminally ill must be of sound mind when requesting assisted suicide, as confirmed by a doctor and other witnesses. The main difference between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is that the latter requires the patient, not a doctor or someone else, to self-administer the medication and decide when to do that. Despite fears that the assisted suicide law would be used inappropriately by many people not showing good care or judgment, that has not been the case.

Research on physician-assisted suicide included two groups consisting of Canadian in-home hospice-palliative volunteers and members of the community. Participants responded to 15 items about physician-assisted suicide. Differences of opinion were revealed in both groups. Additional questions confirmed the following about the majority of volunteers and community members:

     1)   They support legalizing physician-assisted suicide.
     2)   They would choose hospice-palliative care over physician-assisted suicide                 for themselves if they were terminally ill.
     3)   They think Canadians should place more priority on developing hospice-                   palliative care rather than on legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

In America, physician-assisted suicide has also sparked debate widely in various states. Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She decided to move from California to Oregon because doctors there are allowed by law to prescribe life-ending medication to patients who are older than 18 and have been given less than six months to live. She has taken that medication. This video features her story along with pros and cons of the physician-assisted suicide debate:

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.