Hospice Volunteer Book Review: Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes
Author: Frances Shani Parker, www.francesshaniparker.com
Publisher: Loving Healing Press, 212 pages, $19.95, ISBN-101-932690-35-2
Book Reviewer: Dr. Naomi Long Madgett - Teacher, Editor, Publisher, and Poet Laureate of Detroit, MI
Before I read this non-fiction book, I knew very little about hospice care. I thought a hospice was an establishment where patients with only a short time to live went to die. They were kept as comfortable as possible in pleasant surroundings where family members could spend unlimited time with them. I knew several people who were released from the hospital to hospice care at home during their last days. But I was not aware of any other hospice situations. My knowledge of hospice care has increased greatly.
This book is divided into two sections. The first is titled "Everybody’s Story, Ready for the Telling" and consists of nine chapters. The second section, "Footsteps to Caregiving, Death, and the Future of Hospice," consists of seven chapters. Each chapter ends with a related, well-crafted, original poem by the author.
In the first section, readers are introduced to true stories involving a series of unique individuals. They motivate Ms. Parker, a public school principal, to become a certified hospice volunteer and interact with her during her years of service in Detroit nursing homes. She brings these individuals vividly to life, like characters in a good novel, and makes readers feel that they are present during every situation. Topics such as nursing homes, dementia, pain management, and death are covered in an easily understood manner.
Hospice care, I learned, focuses on a holistic approach to caregiving and supports the dying and their families through high-quality patient care physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. The volunteer provides companionship, assistance with normal tasks, and advocacy for patients. Ms. Parker realizes that, although her specific assignments target hospice patients, her compassion extends to other patients. Interesting references to her upbringing in New Orleans, Louisiana enhance her storytelling. She is a dedicated volunteer with a deep understanding of human nature and an intuitive sense of what to do to make death as peaceful and satisfying as possible.
The second part of the book shares information that caregivers can use before, during, and after a loved one dies. Various death rituals and bereavement supports are mentioned. This guidance is helpful to all readers, even those who are young and in excellent health.
Improvements needed in hospice and nursing homes in general are examined. Recommendations include better implementation of the hospice philosophy, upgrading of nursing home conditions and procedures, and the elimination of racial and ethnic healthcare disparities. A significant and original comparison is made between schools and nursing homes. The similarities are remarkable in terms of patients’ and students’ needs, employees’ duties and accountability, and methods that promote success. Service-learning partnerships between schools and nursing homes are encouraged.
The final chapter, "Baby Boomer Haven," consists of an imaginary tour guide escorting readers through a wonderful nursing home. The environment and procedures described during the tour are based on best practices of nursing homes that actually exist today. These practices are lacking in many nursing homes in America. This tour provides a very appropriate conclusion to a fascinating book. A bibliography, resources, and an index follow.
Reading this book was extremely enlightening. Not like any other book I have ever read, it is so interesting and well written that I could hardly put it down. While maintaining universal appeal, perspectives of people of color are emphasized. I highly recommend this book for every individual who has ever experienced the illness and death of a loved one or who ever will. That includes everyone.
© Naomi Long Madgett, Ph.D.
Praise for Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes from Roger Woodruff, Director of Palliative Care, International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Austin Health, Melbourne, Australia
"A school principal turned hospice volunteer, Frances Shani Parker relates her experiences with dying people in nursing homes. The second part of the book is about what we as individuals and as a society must do to improve things for those who are dying. I particularly enjoyed the guided tour, conducted from a wheelchair, of Baby Boomer Haven."
Dr. Peter Lichtenberg - Director, Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Alice Hedt - Director, National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
Karyne Jones - President, National Caucus and Center on Black Aged
Dr. Naomi Long Madgett - Editor, Publisher, and Poet Laureate of Detroit, Michigan
Dr. James C. Kielsmeir - President, National Youth Leadership Council
Nelda Brown - Executive Director, National Service-Learning Partnership at the Academy for Educational Development
You can read a review of the book here by Dr. Peter Lichtenberg, Director, Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
You can listen to a podcast radio interview with me at www.AuthorsAudio.com.