Monday, January 20, 2020

Hospice Volunteer Success Secrets

Hospice Volunteer Success Secrets by Frances Shani Parker, Author of 

1)   Remember why you serve.

There’s a reason you feel compelled to enhance lives of the terminally ill. Cherish that inspiration. Move forward committed to an amazing and rewarding healthcare adventure.

2)   Believe it’s all win-win.

Providing end-of-life service is a privilege, not a calling to be a savior. You and those you support come together in relationships of mutual healing and growth. Honor your win-win journey.

3)   Be present.

By all means, show up. But be present with patients after you arrive. Evaluate appearances, behaviors, surroundings, and interactions with others. Listen with your heart. Even silence speaks. Really try to understand life from their perspectives. Focus on advocacy for improving their quality of life.

4)   Try other doors.

Patients will have challenges such as dementia that may not respond to your usual front-door communication. Try other doors and even windows. Obstacles are enrichment opportunities in your partnerships with patients. Touch, music, pictures, stories, and fantasies are a few entry points. Let patients help you navigate your way into their world.

5)   Know your piece in the puzzle.

Adherence to rules of protocol and professional ethics should be routine. Be aware of boundaries such as confidentiality regarding yourself, your patients, and their loved ones. Follow guidelines of your hospice organization, and seek help when needed.

6)   Untie your knots.

There may be times of doubt, confusion, sadness, and guilt. These are normal knots of the caregiving process. Untie them by seeking support for your total well-being. Maintain proper rest, nutrition, exercise, and balance in your life. Do your best. Don’t be surprised when you discover reasons to kiss yourself.

7)   Spread the word.

Be knowledgeable about hospice and palliative care. Share information so others can benefit from these specialized areas of healthcare. Encourage involvement in hospice and palliative care career and service activities.

8)   Pick up a turtle.

If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know somebody helped to put it there. Be on the lookout for turtles aiming for fence posts. Be a role model for other volunteers. Participate in organizations, discussion groups, workshops, and conferences where you can share best practices while learning new ideas.
9)   Write death sentences.

Death will come no matter how often you avoid it or wrestle it to the ground. Have your advance directives, finances, and property in legal order. Urge others to do the same. Don’t burden loved ones later with important decisions you can record now. As you unfasten yourself from this life, be satisfied knowing your death sentences will be carried out according to your wishes.
10)  Expect rainbow smiles.

Rainbow smiles hug you so tightly you can feel ribs of joy press against your essence. Hospice volunteering provides ongoing moments for you to positively impact lives. When you make those connections happen, rainbow smiles will come.

© Frances Shani Parker

You can read about my personal journey in becoming a hospice volunteer without realizing I was one here:

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, January 14, 2020

Life Lesson From Dogs to Humans (Video 3:49)

A hospice volunteer over 20 years, I am featuring this post about dogs because it resonates on so many levels with human lives. We all die, but do we really strive to live life to the fullest? This post about mostly elderly, ill, rescued dogs shows us how to enjoy life. The dogs are showcased in a heartwarming video, actually a “dogumentary,” titled "Seven Days with Seven Dogs." Their story mesmerizes with a universal message for humans who are terminally ill, in good health, elderly or young.
Living at a refuge similar to a canine nursing home, the dogs struggle with health challenges ranging from deafness, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, heart murmur, and a lymphatic mass on one “hospice” dog predicted to live only a few more weeks. They experience serious life challenges just like humans do. The dogs' caregivers decide it is high time these canine seniors smell the roses we humans often forget to smell. Taking all the dogs on an adventurous trip to dog-friendly locations immersed in nature becomes a fantastic solution. We humans must search the wells of ourselves to find our own purposes and pleasures.

Regarding eldercare, this "dogumentary" encourages quality caregiving that should take place with ill, older adult humans, many who have supported others unconditionally for years. For seven days, join this soul-stirring, dog-centered trip where floral fragrances permeate the air, where wounded spirits soar, and where we are all reminded at personal levels that the best things in life are not things. Let's enjoy ourselves! Have some fun! 
It’s later than we think.

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, January 7, 2020

End-of-Life, Afterlife Views (Research, Video 2:28)

Older adults have several perspectives regarding life after the death of a loved one. Their perspectives can be used by nurses to improve their insights regarding the care they give hospice patients. End-of-life research on how the death of a significant other influenced older adults' perspectives about their own end-of-life is helpful. 

This research involved 15 older adults residing in a continuing care retirement community. Their challenges in losing a loved one revealed these four themes:
1)    Peacefully-slip away with no heroics
2)    Familiarity-making plans that stick
3)    Tying up loose ends-what's left to do
4)    Accepting-my time is up.

This study implies that nurses with medical providers should openly discuss with older adults their end-of-life concerns and care desired.

Curious about what my own hospice patient’s perspective was about life beyond death, I asked her about that and included our conversation in my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer inUrban Nursing Homes. I refer to life after death as the Other Side of Through.

Many people believe in life after death. For them, death is a comma, a pause proceeded by a dash into another dimension of life. Others say that life as we know it while living is all there is to existence. They consider death to be a period at the end of the final sentence in their life stories.

One day, my patient named Mabel (pseudonym) received a birthday card from her church members. This led to an interesting conversation about life after death.

“Were you active in your church?” I asked.

“Well, not too much. I helped out with a few fundraising activities like the annual church bazaar. I usually worked at the ticket booth. I didn’t want to be too active because I have my own personal views about religion. I don’t see religion the way most of my church people see it, so I stayed kind of low-key. Religion is fine, but I don’t believe in God. I only believe in Jesus.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Jesus was a person in real life. People saw him and wrote down what he did and what he said as part of history. I know that Jesus existed. He was right there walking and talking in front of people. Nobody can deny that. But God is different. Nobody has really seen him. Nobody knows how he looks or even what he is. That’s why I don’t believe in God. But I definitely believe in my Jesus.”

“What about heaven, Mabel? What do you think of that?”

“If there is no God, then there is no heaven. It wouldn’t make sense to have a heaven without God. That’s how I see it.”

“What do you think happens after people die?”

“What do I think happens? Nothing. They get buried, and their problems are over. Their problems end, and ours continue.”

© Frances Shani Parker

Mabel’s belief about life after death is one of numerous opinions that people have. Many have thought about the possibility of immortality. They connect it with a soul, reward, and punishment. Some have lived their lives according to those beliefs. For those who believe in an afterlife, there is often a spiritual motivation linked with nature’s cycles of birth and death. They embrace the mystery with faith and decide there is no spiritual death, only a change in their immortal soul’s experience.

Of course, there are others who say they don’t know what to believe. Scientific research on near-death experiences and other death-related phenomena continues to accumulate data to shed new light on discussions about life after death. Ultimately, people have to decide for themselves what they want to believe.

Suzanne Newcombe, lecturer in religious studies at The Open University says,We are profoundly ignorant about many things in life. What happens after death is just one of them.” This video further explains people’s beliefs about death and the afterlife.

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas in May (Hospice Volunteer Story)

A hospice volunteer in Detroit nursing homes for many years, I shared a wonderful Christmas in May with my ninety-two year old patient. Sometimes patients needed me to help them solve problems. One day, Inez and I had an especially great visit. I had been thinking about how to find the key for a music box her niece had given her for Christmas. She loved that music box and liked to have it on display, so she would have a good excuse to talk about it. She had never heard it play because the key was missing when she received it. She said her niece had tried to find a key, but with no success.

The music box was a lovely piece of handiwork. A wooden base supported a clear glass container. Inside the container lay a beautiful butterfly resting on a small floral bouquet. Underneath the box was a hidden switch that made the seasonal display enchant with spurts of brightness. Inez said that she often sat and watched the softly glowing scene blink on and off. One night, she and I quietly watched it together. That's when I realized how much this silent little music maker meant to her. Unfortunately, neither of us knew what song it was supposed to play. We imagined the Christmas song we thought it should play and hoped one day we could solve the mystery.

Getting the music box to play became my project, but I knew I would need some help. The next day, I explained the problem to Burton, a teacher at the school where I was principal. He decided to become a part of the solution by checking out some stores that might have the missing key. It sounded like the search for Cinderella's shoe. After looking for two weeks, Burton finally found a matching key at a large toy store. The sales lady was so touched by his story about Inez's "musicless" box that she gave him the key free of charge. We couldn't believe our good fortune which became Inez's thrill maker.

In the second week of May with spring showing off nature's fashion makeover from winter, Inez heard her cherished music box play for the very first time. She picked it up gently and carefully placed it near her hearing aid. The song we had wondered about for months, the song that had driven us to discover its name finally played the sweetest version of "Joy to the World." Just hearing the music box fulfill its purpose felt like a miracle. Inez grinned widely, thanked me, and told me to thank the nice man who found the missing key that made her music box come alive.

The mystery had been solved, and Inez was ecstatic. I thought nothing else that day could outdo the pleasure of hearing the music box play, but I was wrong. After Inez set her mechanical miracle on the window sill, so we could admire it playing and revolving, something wonderful occurred that surprised us: The brightly colored butterfly started moving, slowing creeping up to the opening red flower. Inez and I gave each other eerie "Twilight Zone" looks. Then we shared rainbow smiles about the joy in our own little world.

© Frances Shani Parker (Excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Home)

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, November 25, 2019

Gratitude Improves Health (Research, Video 2:07)

Gratitude. Do you know how powerful it is when you extend gratitude and receive it? Psychologists call our declarations of gratitude "other-praising emotions" that build bridges connecting us to people and experiences that promote good feelings. As thankful people praising our benefactors, we create something glorious and special together, something akin to a soul-smacking thanks.

Research on gratitude reveals that gratitude practices are shown to reduce stress and fear, improve sleep, and increase positive emotions and overall well-being. Participants in CaringBridge (CB), a web-based social network online community were engaged in a daily, 21-day brief gratitude practice and were given weekly automated reminders to do their practice. Nearly 70% self-reported engaging in the gratitude practice five or more days each week. Participants reported statistically significant improvement in all outcomes, including stress, gratitude, and social support.

This video shares even more information that can help people with practicing gratitude. It explains specific ways to improve our own attitudes of gratitude, even rewire our brains and be thankful that we did.


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, November 18, 2019

Personality and Dementia (Alzheimer’s Research, Video 2:58)

Personality can be defined as the combination of qualities that form our distinctive character. It includes our presence, charisma, persona that define our nature and makeup. Like everyone else, people living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, have personalities. I have experienced many of their positive and negative personality traits in my role as a hospice volunteer in urban nursing homes and through living life in general.

How is personality connected with dementia? Research on personality and Alzheimer’s disease reveals the following information:

1) Individuals who score higher on conscientiousness (more responsible and self-disciplined) and lower on neuroticism (less anxious and vulnerable to stress) have a reduced risk of developing dementia.

2) With the onset and progression of dementia, there are large changes in personality that are reported consistently by caregivers in retrospective studies and are consistent with the clinical criteria for the diagnosis of dementia.

These implications of personality research are important for identifying those people who are at greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease and the potential of personality-tailored interventions aimed at the prevention and treatment of the disease.

The following video explains how symptoms of dementia get progressively worse and affect a person’s ability to do everyday tasks. The inability to complete tasks can lead to frustration and affect their moods and behaviors. Certain personality traits can also become more prominent. For example, if people with dementia were always viewed as nice, they may become nicer as the disease progresses. On the other hand, if they were always suspicious, they may become paranoid. Wandering is another issue that is also briefly explained in the video.

Frances Shani Parker
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, November 4, 2019

Older Adult Senior Online Dating: Ageism, Sexism, Scams (Research, Video 4:35)

Contrary to what some people still believe, many older adults are using the Internet to enhance their lives in ways they never dreamed about “back in the day.” In fact, many of them have considered or actually used the Internet as a convenient place to search for love on numerous websites with a specific focus on meeting their matchmaking needs.

What are some of these online dating websites adding to the old traditions of choosing romantic partners? This older adult online dating research study that examines the visual representations of people on 39 dating sites offers this information:

1) Ageism and sexism were very evident in the presentation of older adults. The majority of men and women were smiling and had a fair complexion, light eye color and perceived ages younger than 60. Older women were presented as younger and wore more cosmetics.

2) The social regulation of sexuality was emphasized with only heterosexual couples being presented.

Conclusion: This ageism and sexism display a narrow representation of older adults in society and imply that older love, intimacy, and sexual activity are for older adults who are "forever young."

Older women are at a disadvantage when it comes to online dating if they seek partners only in their age groups. Not only are there fewer men alive in their age group, many of the living ones want younger women. If you think this makes women desperate to marry whatever they can get, you don't know jack about older women. While they may still be open to the possibility of marriage, many women cherish their lifestyles free of various responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there is one aspect of online dating that everyone should be cautioned about in order to proceed safely. Both sexes can be victimized by online dating scams. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received more than 15,000 reports linked to romance scams last year. More than half of the complaints involved losses of money, sometimes in massive amounts. The victims are often older Americans trying to get back in the dating pool. This video shares important information including the story of one of the victims who lost roughly $300,000.

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

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Death Tributes After Formal Rituals (Day of the Dead Video 2:04)

Honoring a loved one who has died is not a single act, but a unique personal journey that may consist of many small tributes after the formal death ritual. Various options are available for bringing formal closure to life such as funerals, hospice services, and other memorials. The majority of family members and friends of the deceased do not always attend these traditions. This is not to say that formal death rituals are not appreciated and viewed as significant. But many people rely more on informal grief expressions to help them cope in their daily lives after formal events have been held.

For most people, these informal activities are endearing expressions that sustain them during their long-term adjustment to loss. Death rituals continue to evolve with the passage of time. Choosing how to bring closure to the lives of deceased loved ones becomes more personalized. Increasing numbers of relatives and friends unfasten their earthly connections with loved ones and move forward with informal rituals.

Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated on October 31, November 1 and November 2  throughout Mexico and in other parts of the world. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. In the following video, thousands of people gather in the heart of the Mexican capital to celebrate the first annual Day of the Dead procession. Long ago, many people started believing that once a year spirits of the dead are guided back to the world of the living through offerings of food and candles.

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 21, 2019

Socrates Cafes: College-Older Adult Partnerships (Research, Video 3:08)

Memories I have of  great intergenerational experiences include time I spent with my great grandmother. I don’t recall any profound statements she made, but I do know that she listened intently to what I said, and I had plenty to say. Growing up in a Jim Crow world of racial segregation where every day was a reminder of my unimportance to the larger society, I believe her loving listening told me I mattered. She is the reason I have been a strong proponent of intergenerational partnerships during my many years as an educator. 

Intergenerational research on children and older adults reports that benefits of these partnerships are reaped by all ages involved. Among positive examples of impact include children's improved perceptions of the elderly and improved well-being and self-esteem of older adults. But what about research on intergenerational partnerships between college aged students and older adults? Intergenerational research again reports the win-win benefits of both parties.

Socrates Cafes are examples of effective intergenerational experiences that include social connections. They are facilitated discussions suited for bridging generation gaps and inviting self-expression. They can be held anywhere people gather and share perspectives. In a researched Socrates Cafe approach used with college students and low-income older adults, findings included reduced ageism and stereotyping from students, the formation of relationships between students and older adults, and a recognition from older adults that they had valuable insights to share with younger generations. In the Socrates Café video blow, Christopher Phillips explains the magic of Socrates Cafe gatherings. 

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