Tuesday, October 15, 2019

LGBT End-of-Life, General Healthcare Discrimination (Older Adult Research, Video 4:41)

America’s population continues to age, and that includes more older adults dying. Across the country, there are more than 2.7 million LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) adults ages 50 or older living in our communities. Unlike many heterosexual and cisgender (sex assigned at birth) counterparts in their age groups, discrimination greatly threatens their health, wellbeing, economic security, and social connections, leaving them vulnerable to serious barriers in terms of support in meeting their end-of-life and general healthcare needs.

While the end-of life care of LGBT persons is understudied, we do know that in the absence of legal marriage or protective legal documentation which many LGBT people do not have, their problems increase. Researched articles on LGBT end-of-life barriers render the following information:

1) Discriminatory laws (e.g., prohibitions against same-sex marriage) and policies

2) Lack of decision-making capacity

3) Lack of knowledge regarding patient wishes

4) Lack of visitation rights

5) Challenges from biological next of kin

6) Discrimination and psychological distress.

Increased research on transgender persons, bisexual persons, and providers of end-of-life care is needed. Clearly, they need a supportive healthcare system that is educated to meet their unique end-of-life needs.

In this video, SAGE Care and the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation asked LGBT older adults and care providers why being "out" to healthcare providers is so important. The main thing we learned from them is that they want to be treated with respect based on who they are.

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, October 7, 2019

Dementia Day Care Benefits (Research, Video 5:08)

Through the years, I have noticed a reluctance by several caregivers to enroll a loved one in a dementia day care program. They usually defend their positions by saying statements such as, “No one can take better care of him than I can,” or “I’m sure she won’t like it there. She would rather stay at home.” Having visited and participated in several dementia day care programs, I know that a daily routine focused on dementia-oriented activities, balanced hot meals, supportive caregivers and loving friends is far better that sitting at home in a limited environment that too often includes mostly watching television, eating and sleeping.

Nowadays, I suggest to caregivers that they and their loved ones living with dementia visit a day care program for just one day and see how they like it. So far, no one has stopped going back. On one first day trip, the person with dementia did not want to leave when all her new friends walked her to the door, hugged her and said good-bye. And the caregivers still say they wish they had gone sooner. They especially appreciate the quality respite time that they can enjoy, while knowing their loved ones are in good hands at the dementia center.

The best part of day care is that both caregivers and those with dementia benefit. A research study examined the effects adult day care programs had on individuals with dementia and their caregivers from the perspective of care providers at such a program.The care providers identified several benefits. These benefits followed two themes including the role of care providers and the time to breathe. 

The following video demonstrates activities of the San Diego, California Alzheimer's Day Care Center (Glenner Town Square) where a 1950’s memory village has been created. The video explains information about Alzheimer’s disease and what caregiver providers and those living with dementia can do at the village to stimulate minds and improve their sense of purpose.

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, September 23, 2019

Love and Healing – By the Numbers

Today I am pleased to have my friend, Peter Lichtenberg, share with you his unique story of love, healing and numbers. We often think of widowed people as women. But numerous widowed fathers are raising children alone while carrying their own burdens of spousal loss and grief. Healing uplifts their spirits. Future marriage presents new possibilities. Welcome to a revealing and unpredictable journey inside one man’s mind and heart.

Love and Healing - By the Numbers

By Peter Lichtenberg

Twenty, two thousand, thirty-five, and one. Numbers.

Numbers have always been important to me as a way to mark significant parts of life and living. When I was growing up, Hank Aaron was my favorite player while everyone else loved Willie Mays. I kept close track of his batting average and home runs. When my hometown Philadelphia Phillies were awful, I tracked Tony Taylor’s best season—could he end up hitting .300? He did and batted .301. When I had an All-Star baseball set and played constantly, I had season averages, lifetime averages and an assortment of other statistics always in my mind. During my first year of graduate school while walking to class, I would count the number of days I would live in West Lafayette, Indiana. When I became a researcher, I began to count my numbers of publications. First, because it was a marker for promotion and then because numbers just stay with me.

Twenty! In ten days, September 18, 2019 will mark the 20th anniversary of my marriage to Susan. I have journaled and written about Susan so often, (including my own short book, “Grief and Healing: Against the Odds,” of being widowed twice at 25 and 55). How miraculously she came into my life and allowed me to begin living fully—for the first time since the death of my first wife Becky who died suddenly at age 25 from an arrhythmia while jogging. Susan was not only my wife; she was my colleague, my best friend, my tennis partner, my hiking partner, movie critic partner, parenting partner, and my partner in noticing and reveling in the small things in life. Susan once wrote to me that “being married to you is the easiest thing I have ever done in my life”—wow!! How would I not celebrate and mark the 20th year?

Two-thousand! Two thousand days ago, Susan died. Her heart gave out after battling Stage IV breast cancer for 44 months—enduring all sorts of treatments. It was sudden, her death, and it was a blessing that she did not know she was going to die that day. She grieved so the idea of leaving me, of leaving her children and step-child ages 21, 12 and 9 behind.

One Thousand. I took a long walk on the 1,000 day after she died and reflected on how much grief I had experienced and how much hurt remained. I also reflected on how much I kept Susan close to me and how her spirit enabled me to heal and to continue living with a zest for experiences and joyful moments. At two thousand, I am back to the regular rhythms of day to day life. Happily remarried for eight plus months and so relieved to see my children doing so well and finding their day to day rhythms, too. Susan is everywhere in our home, and her smile and laughing, joyful and beautiful pictures give me energy and pride—I’m so proud that Susan chose me to be her one and only.

Thirty five! In two months and six days, it will be 35 years since Becky died. I just had brunch in Chicago with her college roommate (and my friend, too) Mary. We each reflected on how grateful we are that Becky graced us with her love and friendship. Mary had shared with me letters Becky had written her when we first moved in together, and on this trip, she told me of her last call with Becky and the loving things she said about me and about our marriage. I was always in awe that Becky chose me. She was the funniest, the most spirited, the smartest, and the most capable person in any room.

In Chicago, I stayed two blocks from where we spent the first days of our marriage. As much as my mom loved Susan, and boy did she—Becky was the daughter she never had (had 4 sons). I cried more during the five years after Becky died than I ever thought possible. Grief was overwhelming and lonely. Nevertheless, I survived and grew, and Becky’s influence on my life and her presence at key times of my life have been amazing. She handed me to Susan.

One! Despite being married to Debbie for slightly over 8 months, we finally moved in together only one month ago. We each had sons who were seniors in high school, and we knew it was so important to keep them in their respective routines and graduate from their respective high schools. Then, like a whirling dervish, Debbie pulled off the impossible. She got her house packed up and ready for sale and sold it within a few weeks. Watching her was exhausting and intimidating. How could someone be so organized and so effective with things!!

She (and her three young adult children) moved into my house, since Sophie was just about to enter high school and wanted to stay put. Debbie has been an incredible blessing not only to my life, but to all three of my children’s as well—and I think among them especially Sophie! It is my life that Debbie has impacted most. She is my best friend, my hiking partner, my dining out partner, and my business partner. I wake up next to her, make us coffee and breakfast, and cannot believe that once again I am blessed with such a happy home and such a healthy relationship. She has done the impossible in other ways, too. Whereas Susan accepted and embraced Becky, Debbie has embraced Becky and Susan and Susan’s children.

I will never be able to make sense of what has happened to me. I miss Becky, and I miss Susan—Susan especially, as we went through so much and went so deeply together. I cry at the drop of a hat—commercials, comics, and any sentimental scene I see. I hurt. I long for. I am grateful, too 
for all the joys of my life and Debbie’s gift of love, and a life to lead together strikes me as the most unlikely joy of all. Twenty, two thousand, thirty-five and one—there are stories behind the numbers.

Peter A. Lichtenberg
Farmington, Michigan
September 8, 2019

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, September 17, 2019

Social Robots: Caregiver-Older Adult Senior Evaluations (Research, Video 2: 54)

Before I begin sharing the wonders of social robots used to support caregiving, allow me to address any concerns you may have about robots replacing people or not being that important. Robots can’t replace people, but they can provide services that allow people more time to be caregivers. They give care recipients more opportunities to be supported and stimulated in daily living activities. They allow technology to accurately assess and evaluate their progress. Robots help older adults with dementia gain a degree of independence that encourages them to complete activities. 

But probably the best evaluators of how successful social robots can be are older adults and caregivers themselves. That’s when research such as this can be valuable. This research review on social robots aims to summarize the effectiveness of social robots on outcomes (psychological, physiological, quality of life, or medications) of older adults from randomized controlled trials. Eight databases were electronically searched including a total of 13 articles from 2,204 articles with these results:

1.    Social robots appeared to have positive impacts on agitation, anxiety, and quality of life for older adults.
2.    Results from a narrative review indicated that social robot interactions could improve engagement, interaction, and stress indicators, as well as reduce loneliness and the use of medications for older adults.
3.    Social robots appeared to have the potential to improve the well-being of older adults, but conclusions are limited due to the lack of more high-quality studies.

What kind of role will robots have in the future of older adults?  In this video, Rudy the robot is designed to be more affordable, to help around the house, be an interactive companion, and generally help older adults stay in their homes so they can be more independent. Here’s Rudy!

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

Monday, September 9, 2019

Grandparent Journey: Older Adult Seniors

Nana, Emory, Amelia, and PawPaw
Back in September 2012, grandparenthood was a fantasy that my friends Lonnetta and Mitch White could only anticipate with longing. They were older adults who looked forward to discovering what all the excitement was about that other grandparents experienced. Finally, they received word about the upcoming event that would change their lives forever. They were so happy when I interviewed them. This post describes their special grandparent journey from anticipation to gratification.

Anticipation: Feelings, Thoughts, Privilege

I have/had feelings of extreme happiness, joy and excitement!
My thoughts were fantasies of how wonderful it is going to be to love and spoil a grandchild the way I was loved and spoiled by my paternal grandmother.

I remembered the anticipated arrival of my son. Of course, in those days we didn’t know if we were having a girl or boy. The imaging technology simply hadn’t gotten that far. But I was near the delivery room and had the privilege of seeing my first grandchild when she emerged from the delivery room. What a wonderful opportunity!

Gratification: Being Nana and PawPaw

Amelia, First Grandchild

I felt proud and on top of the world. I was also pleased that Amelia was FINALLY here, healthy and absolutely gorgeous! I now have a subscription to a magazine on parenting. In addition, I read all articles about babies and parenting. I want to do all that I can to help her to be the best at whatever it is she wants to be.

All of American history has its challenges. Amelia comes to us at a time when inequities are in full force, but she is fortunate to come from a family of modest economic means. She has a powerful enclave of parents and grandparents to help her in her development.

Emory, Second Grandchild

Just when we thought that there could be nothing better than having one granddaughter, we were blessed with Emory, our second wonderful grandchild. Once again, we felt on top of the world about her good health and beauty. We committed ourselves to supporting her in fulfilling her life purpose.

What a difference a few years make. Now there are two beautiful girls (sisters) full of energy, love, curiosity, creativity, imagination, originality, confidence, and let’s not forget competition and independence. Both are entertaining and precious! Roles have developed and changed in many ways. Amelia, our seven-year-old is very much the self-appointed leader with all the worldly wisdom of most second graders. Three-year-old Emory is a fearless competitor and mimic determined to establish and secure her position as Queen of the Hill.

The reality of grand parenting varies daily. Regardless of the need, we are ready, willing and all too eager to answer any question, kiss all “owwies,” read every book, relieve any fear, visit any playground, cinema, zoo, museum, toy or ice cream shop, make any purchases that will bring a smile and pleasure to the most deserving grandchildren in the world. In short, we will do whatever we can to make our granddaughters happy, as happy as they make us.

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, September 3, 2019

Youth Caregiving Disabled and Older Adults (Video 3:13)

Did you know there are hundreds of thousands of children across America, some as young as eight years old, who are major caregivers on a daily basis? This is the reality of many school children, particularly in racial-ethnic minority communities and among low to mid-income families. The stress and responsibilities of caregiving adults are often recognized and discussed. But what about the lives of these children whose lives are impacted greatly with many of the same issues adult caregivers experience?

As a former school principal, it was not unusual for me to have students in elementary through high school grades with attendance problems due to caregiving responsibilities at homes when no one else was available to help. These children’s responsibilities included medicating, dressing, feeding, bathing, and more. The emotional stress of child caregivers can be even more harmful to them than the physical burdens. Unfortunately, as the economy struggles and the ranks of baby boomers expand, increasing numbers of children are being assigned caregiving responsibilities.

More people are recognizing this problem, and for some children, but not nearly enough, help is being provided. The American Association of Caregiving Youth 
provides resources and support to young people who are the primary caregivers of disabled or elderly relatives. Their mission is to increase awareness and provide support services for youth caregivers and their families by connecting them with healthcare, education and community resources. This CNN video features Connie Siskowski:

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Decision: Who Makes It? (Disturbing Research, Video 4:16)

Who really decides not to restart the heart during a cardiac arrest situation? Many patients may not realize that the decision is a complex one involving nurses and physicians with a wide variety of their own personal experiences and perspectives about how the situation should be handled. Previous studies have shown different perceptions of the DNR decision process among nurses and physicians concerning patient involvement and information. In addition, decision-making has been reported to be unclear with inconsistent documentation.

A researched web research study on DNR decision making including 132 nurses and 84 physicians reported the following results:

1) Almost half of the respondents reported it not likely that the patient would be involved in the decision on DNR.

2) Twenty-one percent found it unimportant to inform patients of the DNR decision.

3) Fifty-seven percent reported that providing information to the patient was important, but only twenty-one percent stated that this was likely to happen.

4) Attributes deemed most important for both nurses and physicians pertained more to medical viewpoints than to ethical values.

5) Nurses chose patient autonomy as the most important value, while physicians rated non-maleficence (no harm) as the most important value in relation to DNR decisions.

This research is very disturbing and clearly shows the need for more and better interventions to ensure patients' values and preferences are addressed and integrated into end-of-life decisions. The importance of patients having Advance Directives done detailing their healthcare wishes and selecting surrogates who will truly advocate for them can’t be emphasized enough.

Nurses and physicians need to be able to talk openly about their different perspectives on DNR decisions, so they can develop a deeper understanding of the decisions, especially in cases where they disagree. The organization needs to support such discussions through providing an environment that allows ethical discussions on a regular basis. Patients and relatives will also benefit from receiving the same information from all caregivers.

In recent years, wearing a tattoo stating “Do Not Resuscitate” has become more popular as a way to safeguard one’s healthcare rights regarding this topic. Should a tattoo of an incapacitated patient be honored? Art Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine discusses such a case 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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Older Adult Senior Bullying: No Home Sweet Home (Research, Solutions)

By Frances Shani Parker

When you think of the words “home sweet home,” what kind of thoughts do you envision? Do you smile and recall experiences you associate with sweetness such as love, support, and peace? Are you mindful of the physical, mental, spiritual, and social benefits you receive that improve your quality of life and health in a caring environment? Unfortunately, if you are an older adult living in a senior community and experiencing peer bullying, the sweetness of home may be missing. In addition, your likelihood of social isolation, depression, disease risk factors, and decreased mortality are threatened.

An older adult senior bullying research study was done to identify the nature, prevalence, and consequences of peer bullying for tenants of two low-income senior apartment communities. In collaboration with the local Older Adult Abuse Task Force, a screening survey on bullying was distributed to all tenants. Results of the surveys indicated that 39% of tenants had witnessed peer bullying and 29% had been subjected to bullying by peers. “The most common forms of peer bullying were deliberate social exclusion and hurtful comments. The majority of respondents indicated that bullying was a problem for seniors and that bullies hurt other people. Outcomes of bullying included feelings of dejection and difficulties conducting everyday activities.”

Currently, one out of five seniors is bullied by peers. This is worse than the one out of seven rate for young people. Due to underreporting of incidents, the numbers of bullying confrontations are often much higher than suspected. That's why only addressing sporadic incidents without the context of a larger anti-bullying plan frequently fails. While the above research results indicate the most common forms of bullying, there have been many other more serious cases that have included legal action, physical violence, and suicides.

Bullying occurs within all socioeconomic groups and anywhere in a senior facility. A common bullying violation is seats being saved for latecomers while people who have already arrived are denied seating. This is in violation of the first come, first served order of seating and happens often in dining areas and recreational spaces such as movie theaters. Sometimes seniors are selfish and very rude to peers who are different in some way such as newness, appearance, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, or a disability. Unfortunately, too many victims suffer in silence at their own detriment by avoiding perpetrators and not reporting bullying incidents to administrators, especially when previous reporting has not helped on a large scale. Concerned about personal negative repercussions, bystanders often do little or nothing to support victims. Fear runs deeply, but reports from victims and witnesses are greatly needed to solve bullying problems.

It is imperative that administrators of senior facilities implement ongoing solutions to bullying issues. Some are in denial about the magnitude of the problems and resist giving bullying concerns their full attention. Some are aware of problems, but don't want others, especially visitors or potential customers, to know bullying problems exist at their locations. The Internet, senior organizations (such as AARP), publications, and other resources are available to provide a great deal of helpful information. Bullying problems must be approached methodically with research, needs assessments, concrete plans, staff and resident training, implementation of solutions, and ongoing monitoring. A formal anti-bullying policy should be created and included in a handbook, so everyone shares a common goal and reference.

An anti-bullying culture must be established that reminds bullies they are not in charge and will be dealt with appropriately. A culture is not established through private conversations with a handful of violators or infrequent comments to large audiences. Victims need this culture for ongoing reassurances that they will be supported when they defend themselves against bullies. Residents need access to an ongoing dependable procedure for reporting bullying incidents that will be addressed in a timely manner. Posted anti-bullying signs (No Saving Seats, Bully-Free Zone) provide visibility of an anti-bullying culture. Ignoring bullying is done at the expense of residents' quality of life and impaired health. Confronting bullying head-on includes consistency in solution implementation and respect for everyone’s dignity and rights.

Note: You can view a previous blog post of mine that includes more bullying research (long-term care staff perspectives), descriptions of older adult senior bullying incidents, legalities, comments, and a video at the link below:

Bullying in Older Adult Senior Communities (Research, Video 2:49)

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, August 13, 2019

Centenarian Health (Research, Birthday Video 2:20)

How many centenarians, people living at least 100 years, do you know? This population is growing so fast, it is not unusual these days to know several. In fact, if you haven't already, many of you reading this post may become centenarians yourselves. Reaching this formerly rare milestone has become common nowadays, not only because of genetics, but also due to advances in healthcare with people living longer.

Those are not the only factors that impact how long people live. Surprisingly, marriage and living arrangements also play important roles. Being a centenarians living with a spouse during old age is more beneficial in terms of longevity for men than for women. For women, living alone is more advantageous than living with a spouse. Generally, men are often not able to live well by themselves, whereas women seem to have fewer problems living on their own.

Recent research findings by the Georgia Centenarian Study focused on the relationship between vision impairment and well-being among centenarians. This study evaluated their visual function and assessed the relationship between vision, social support, and well-being. Centenarians reported lower levels of depression when they had social support. However, centenarians who had low levels of visual function tended to report higher depression even if they had social support. Results of this study indicate that vision function is related to centenarians' well-being, especially depression.

Speaking of centenarians, imagine the possibility of 20 living in one residence. A residence in Cote-St-Luc in Canada celebrated several centenarians in a group birthday party, leaving them with a total of 20 residents over 100 years old.

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, August 5, 2019

Dementia Caregiving Benefits (Alzheimer’s Research, Video 4:44)

Caregiving in general has positive and negative aspects, and dementia caregiving is no exception. Dementia refers to a group of conditions that gradually destroy brain cells and lead to mental decline. Many conditions can cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause. Those living with dementia may experience changes in behavior and personality, such as anxiety and delusions.  Like a fluttering bee, dementia can leave a caregiver wondering when it will make honey or sting.

It is helpful for caregivers to be reminded of the “honey” they can achieve in their caregiving roles, especially from the perspectives of primary caregivers of relatives. This research done with 57 primary caregivers of people living with dementia does that. These caregivers provided 669 diary recordings over an 8-week period. They described daily events and experiences in which positive gains in the form of themes were achieved. These were the positive themes they shared:

1)   Insights about dementia and acceptance of the condition
2)   A sense of purpose and commitment to the caregiving role
3)   Feelings of gratification when the care-recipient was functioning relatively well
4)   Skills to handle the care-recipient
5)   Increased patience and tolerance
6)   Positive meanings and humor amidst difficult circumstances
7)   Release of plans, such as an unrealistic personal agenda
8)   A closer relationship with the care-recipient
9)   Support and feelings of usefulness helping other caregivers

While negative outcomes for caregivers, such as depression, also need to be treated, drawing more awareness to these positive caregiver benefits and strategies to achieve them can be very rewarding. Knowing how to reframe stressful situations in a more positive light can add more positivity to caregiving experiences.

The following video titled “It’s a Sparrow” is a soul stirring example of how a negative caregiving experience can evolve into a positive one through thoughtful reflection.

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

Grief Support: School, Workplace (Video 3:57)

We all know that death can and will come at any time. However, many times we don’t expect it and may not be prepared for how to respond. When I was school principal of a PK-8th grade school, a speeding car drove over the curb during student dismissal time. This massive nightmare of steel plowed through a group of giggling students heading for home. Staff, students, and I witnessed a boy’s body fly into the air and land with a life-destroying thud in the middle of the street.

Time stood still as we endured the horrific sounds of our rapidly beating hearts absorbing what had happened. This young member of our school family was tragically killed before our eyes. We joined together as a community untangling the tremendous grief, a first time for most, through heartfelt expressions of painful feelings. Ongoing healing included counseling support, a school memorial service, and many classroom conversations about death, a topic that is too often ignored until a crisis comes.

As adults in the workplace, our co-workers also die in expected and unexpected circumstances, leaving us with similar experiences of grief and loss that impact us as a work community. For many, the workplace staff becomes a family grieving in various ways as they experience a shared loss.

Comforting co-workers who are struggling with grief symptoms can be uncomfortable for some people. While they may have good intentions, they often lack confidence regarding what to say or do that will help mourners adjust. At the workplace, many staff members may feel that only experts should handle grief support. Worried that they might cause hurt feelings, they may remain distant from those mourning openly. Holding back their support, however, can negatively impact colleagues who are suffering and looking for healing.

Although counselors and others trained in grief management play an important role, colleagues can also make beneficial contributions. Before tragedies occur, individuals of the organization should have workshops and meetings at workplaces and include time for sharing strategies everyone can incorporate to alleviate grief as a community. Implementation of these strategies can help create workplace cultures where everyone feels inspired to support one another in whatever ways they can during times of grief. Managers should plan to have an open forum where employees feel free to discuss their emotions, offer assistance to the families of the deceased, and understand that people grieve in different ways.

This video provides suggestions for coping with workplace grief. It focuses on death of a colleague in the workplace. Jessica Barton of R3 Continuum reviews the different reactions to various types of death in the workplace and offers reminders of positive teaching points.

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 22, 2019

Hospice Book Review With Death Demon Fears

I should warn you that this book review may arouse anxious feelings if your fear of death is significant. Perhaps you even personify death on some level as a dreaded demon. Unfortunately, for some people, death is still a terminally ill taboo in great need of palliative-hospice care. Too many people avoid talking, hearing, writing, or even reading about the end of life. A hospice volunteer for 20 years and an author and eldercare consultant, I have been told on several occasions that death is just too depressing and final. 

This reluctance to deal with mortality visited a friendship of mine. I had given a casual friend a copy of my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes. Wanting to be sensitive and not knowing her feelings about death, I decided not to talk to her about the book unless she brought it up. Eventually, she did. I’ll call her Alice. She approved my writing this post.

Because Alice works in the healthcare profession, but not as a bedside caregiver, I was somewhat surprised to discover that she felt strongly that death, a frightening stalker of her dreams, is her enemy. She explained that death has stolen too many of her loved ones, including pets. She worries about losing even more. My own positive acceptance of death, which comes across clearly in my conversations and writings, seems inappropriate to her. She finds my views too accepting of her adversary, too casual a regard for life. While she says she would consider hospice care along with other options in her future, she admits being a bedside hospice volunteer herself would be frightening.

What is her feedback regarding Becoming Dead Right, my non-fiction book? She cares deeply about the patients’ stories and my comments regarding interactions with various people in the nursing home world. My original poetry, which concludes each chapter and probably nudges her own poetic abilities also pleases her. She finds the discussions on hospice, nursing homes, caregiving, dementia, death, and bereavement informative. She appreciates that, while the book is universal, it includes the often-missing voices of urban dwellers, including people of color. She finds the explanations about intergenerational school-nursing home partnerships and the ideal nursing home described in the last chapter particularly enjoyable. Basically, she loves the book, but  dislikes the premise that there is a “right” way to die.

I am glad that this book meeting with her dreaded death demon impacts her positively on some level. Those of us who embrace the topic of death will continue to be viewed with dismay by those who deal with mortality through avoidance and resignation of themselves and loved ones as victims of death’s imagined malicious powers. Alice’s revelations are important because they reinforce the significance of promoting death as a natural part of life that should be experienced with dignity by everyone. 

Death conversations and writings enhance lives of fearful naysayers one person at a time. These efforts empower them slowly with death acceptance even as they resist the message. I value Alice’s frankness in sharing death’s distressful presence in her life and in giving me feedback on my book. Most of all, I commend her willingness to become a ball of courage rolling into the high weeds where the death demon lives. You can read more reviews of Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes at my website:     

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

Alone, But Not Lonely (Research, PersonalityTraits Video 5:21)

Older adults and others who live alone are often viewed as having adverse health conditions and/or poor social networking skills. Some observers assume that those who are viewed as loners are unhappy with their lives and live with sad feelings of isolation from others. While this possibility exists, it is important to remember that many people who enjoy aloneness are living lives that they find satisfying and socially fulfilling.

A research study was done on the perspectives of older adults regarding their time spent alone. Participants lived in a retirement village or lived independently in the community. The three themes noted from their responses were having balance in activities, keeping busy, and experiencing nights as the worst times. This study highlights the importance some older people place on their need to manage time alone so that it is a positive and nourishing experience and to avoid extended periods of boredom. Enabling older adults to balance time spent alone by addressing barriers to participation in the community in addition to finding engaging ways to occupy time has the potential to prevent loneliness and improve well-being.

Like people of all ages, many older adults enjoy their alone time and do not view their aloneness as loneliness. Spending quality time alone can have many advantages when people have developed interesting activities that add purpose  to their lives. A lifestyle in which aloneness plays a major role may not suit everybody. But, for those who enjoy longer periods of alone time, it can be a positive addition to their overall healthy living.

The luring road to solitude promises countless adventures that enhance life journeys. Who are the people who savor this aloneness time with passion? This video explains 10 of their special personality traits.


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.