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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Alzheimer’s Aid Dogs Make Life Safer (Video 2:39)


Losing memory, the ability to function, and orientation to surroundings can be very frustrating to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Imagine how frightening it can be for loved ones to have that person simply go for a walk outside while being unsure about problems with falling or getting lost. It is easy to see why some choose to stay in safety at home. Unfortunately, this can lead to depression and a lack of independence.

Some Alzheimer’s sufferers have found support for leading a more normal life. Yariv Ben Yosef, an Israeli dog trainer who specializes in training service dogs, developed a program for the Alzheimer’s Aid Dog project.  Bella, a smooth collie, was the first dog trained for this program. The first person to receive her was Yehuda, an Alzheimer’s patient aged 62.

Bella is trained to alert others when Yehuda is in distress, provide physical support to prevent falls and injuries, and even take him home if he becomes lost. In addition, Bella wears a special GPS homing device for the family to signal to the dog when it is time to bring Yehuda home. This device also makes it easy to locate them if Yehuda refuses to follow the dog. The dog never leaves him and barks to attract attention when needed.

Another form of assistance the dog provides is a special collar with a transmitter that reacts to a special bark the dog is trained to use to call for help. This bark activates the transmitter that transmits to the cell phones of family members. When at home, Bella is trained to operate a panic button if help is needed. 

The following video features Yehuda and his dog Bella. She has been with him for 11 years. They have a great 24-hour friendship caring for each other.




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.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Are You Ready to Die? Bella Was.

Are you ready to die? Many people assume that nobody really wants to die, but I have known several non-suicidal hospice patients who looked forward to death. Bella comes to mind first. She said she was ready to go to heaven, and, at a personal level, she was. But Bella kept pushing death back because she wanted her death ritual and other plans to be just right, the way she wanted them.

“I won’t be here when you come next week. I’ll be in heaven. You can call ahead if you want to be sure I’m not here. That way you won’t make a trip for nothing,” she warned me, her weekly hospice volunteer.

“Thanks for telling me, Bella. I’ll just come anyway and see for myself,” I responded like it was the most normal thing in the world. In recent weeks, whenever I left from visiting her, Bella said it was the last time I would see her. She said she would be dead before I returned the following week.

When I returned and she was still alive, I’d say, “Well, I guess you changed your mind about dying this week.” Bella always had a good excuse. A few times, she didn’t want to miss some festive activity like the annual Christmas party at the nursing home. Most times, it was for practical reasons like getting funeral, burial, and other after-death plans in order with the help of her family. She wanted her children to clean her house thoroughly, so relatives and friends could go there to fellowship after her funeral. Cleaning entailed sorting and packing clothes for charity. There were several other tasks beyond actual dust removal. Her various excuses for not dying continued for months while she finalized arrangements from her nursing home room.

Bella even invited me to join her on her after-death journey. She said it might be more fun if we went to heaven together. I declined this invitation by explaining it just wasn’t my time. Besides, she already had a bunch of people there waiting for her.

One day, Bella’s warning came true. I received the hospice phone call saying she had died. I smiled to myself and said, “Good for you, Bella! You finally did it!"

(Story above is excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes.)

What about you? Are you ready to die? Do you think about what death really means to you and how you want your wishes implemented? Have you had death conversations that will help you and others prepare for death physically, financially, and regarding your property? Like Bella, is your “house” in order?

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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) End-of-Life Decisions: Nurses, Families (Research, Video 3:54)


Everybody isn’t comfortable around dying people or even having conversations about them. But nurses in the intensive care unit (ICU) are confronted with this reality daily. Many have found ways to manage their personal adaptations and assist families in making their own adjustments when the time comes to discuss continuing aggressive treatment or shifting to end-of-life palliative care. ICU nurses help families negotiate consensus in these decisions.

The ICU dying process can be viewed as a story with several themes related to communication between nurses and families. These are the four parts of that story:

        1)   Building relationships and general communication 
        2)   Recognizing the need to transition to palliative care
        3)   Facilitating palliative care
        4)   Providing dignified care throughout the dying process

       ICU research involving 19 experienced intensive care nurses focused on their communication with families navigating the difficult path of transitioning from aggressive care to palliative care. This kind of research is important for caregivers because it helps them understand better how to talk about and reflect on the complex communication necessary for good end-of-life care. 

       In this video, the “3 Wishes Project” brings peace to the dying process for critically ill ICU patients and their loved ones. Family and clinician responses have been overwhelmingly positive.

 


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.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Marijuana: Older Adult Use (Research, Video 2:15)

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, weed, Mary Jane, and other names, continues to gain acceptance and popularity in our society. However, the Pew Research Center reports that 74% of adults 65 and older are still uncomfortable about marijuana smoking, and 22% say they never used it. But many older adults, particularly those from the boomer generation, do use marijuana for health and social purposes. Eating edible marijuana is more popular than smoking it. Hospice patients in states where marijuana is legal can also choose treatment with marijuana to manage their symptoms and make them more comfortable. Even some retirees with medical challenges are deciding to move to states with legalized marijuana.

In a study of marijuana users in the San Francisco Bay Area, participants were
researched through history interviews, questionnaires, and health surveys in order to learn their perspectives regarding marijuana harm reduction. Results indicated that participants minimized marijuana harm so they could maintain social functioning in their everyday lives. Responsible and controlled use was described in the following ways:

          1) Moderation of quantity
          2) Frequency of marijuana used
          3) Using in appropriate setting
          4) Respect for non-users

Participants followed rituals or cultural practices while using rules that helped them define what was "normal" or "acceptable" marijuana use. Users with access to a regulated market (medical marijuana dispensaries) were better equipped to practice harm reduction.

This video describes the growing trend of older adult use of marijuana.




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.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Animal Therapy: Paro, Robotic Seal (Research, Video 4:03)


Let’s talk about seal healing. Paro, a baby harp robotic seal that’s been around for some time continues to convince many it is real. Paro was created to improve social interactions and activity participation among institutionalized older adults. Those with dementia have particularly benefitted with improved brain activity. While therapy with real animals has grown in popularity, the reality of dog bites, allergies, disease, and lack of availability have caused robotic animals to serve as great alternatives with proven results. 

Robot-assisted therapy can be provided as a routine activity program and has the potential to improve social health of older adults in residential care facilities. In a study of robot-assisted animal therapy with older adults, sixteen eligible participants received group robot-assisted therapy using a seal-like robot pet for 30 minutes twice a week for 4 weeks. Assessments of their communication and interaction skills were done. The 12 participants who completed the study showed significant improvement in their communication and interaction skills and activity participation.

Paro, the robotic seal, has done a great job improving social health of older adults in many residential care facilities. You can watch Paro improving lives through seal healing in this video:



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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Spirituality Helps Coping With Illness (Research, Video 10:02)

Life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and heart disease can cause many to rely on support and comfort from sources in addition to medical healthcare. Coping skills related to spirituality often empower patients with a layer of strength to face each day with renewed hope and joy.

Spirituality research interviews were done with 10 cardiac survivors and 9 cancer survivors. Participants explained how their life-transforming changes occurred in the context of their life-threatening illnesses. Spirituality, meaning, and purpose were described in several ways such as connecting with family and friends, nature, art, music, and creating a relationship with God. These connections were how they walked through the fire and coped successfully with their diseases.

By understanding the importance of spirituality in many people’s lives, healthcare workers and other caregivers can create better plans for helping patients come to terms with serious health challenges. These plans could include support groups, activities that involve yoga, meditation, nature, music, prayer, or referral to spiritual or religious counselors.

Spirituality does not have to be connected with religion, but sometimes it is. The following video features a church congregation experiencing solitary and communal spirituality. Strains of the gospel song “Come on in the Room” are sung by the Georgia Mass Choir founded by Reverend Milton Biggham. Reflecting the times and power of spirituality during illness, this musical presentation unfolds in the context of a compelling story not written in the lyrics below. Welcome, the service has started.

“Come on in the Room”

Chorus 1:
Come on in the room.
come on in the room.
Jesus is my doctor,
and He writes out all of my prescriptions.
He gives me all of my medicine in my room.

Chorus 2:
There is joy, joy in the room,
joy in the room.
Jesus is my doctor,
and He writes out all of my prescriptions.
He gives me all of my medicine in my room.

Chorus 3:
Joy in my room,
Joy in my room.
Jesus will meet you.
The Holy Ghost will greet you.
Joy, unspeakable joy, in my room.





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.