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Monday, January 16, 2017

Gay Grandfathers, Gay Grandsons (LGBT Research, Video 5:05)

Intergenerational family experiences of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community are often not represented during family discussions within the larger heterosexual community. These relationships are important in order to understand better how LGBT individuals function within family systems.

This research focused on the experiences of 79 gay grandfathers with their adult children and grandchildren. Like earlier research on heterosexual grandparents, gay grandfathers reported the following:

1)  Close relationships with grandchildren who lived near them and with whom they had frequent contact

2)  Close relationships with grandchildren whom they had informed of their sexual orientation

3)  Social support associated with better mental health

Although there are factors known to affect intergenerational relationships and mental health among older people, the three variables above specific to gay grandfathers are important predictors of the quality of their relationships with their grandchildren and of their mental health.

What about relationships between gay grandsons and heterosexual grandfathers? The following video is a revealing discussion in which a gay grandson explains his sexual orientation for the first time to his conservative grandfather:




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, January 2, 2017

Palliative Care Patient Intimacy (Research, Cancer Video 1:37)


Palliative care is a medical approach for people facing problems associated with life-threatening illnesses. Focused on improving lives of patients and their families, this care prevents and relieves suffering from symptoms and stress of medical conditions. While palliative care and hospice care both provide comfort, palliative care can begin at diagnosis and at the same time as treatment. Hospice care begins after treatment of the disease is stopped and when the patient has been medically predicted to have up to six months to live, although some do live longer.

Intimacy, which is often impacted by serious illnesses, should be an important part of a palliative care assessment. Unfortunately, intimacy concerns are rarely assessed for hospital patients receiving palliative care. Why is that? Is it because most patients don’t want to discuss intimacy about their lives? Or is it because most healthcare providers rarely ask about it?

Research on palliative care intimacy was done that provides evidence of the correct answer. Performed at two hospitals, patient screenings included two questions to help identify intimacy issues and palliative care team communication to the referring medical team. These were the results:

1) The vast majority (96%) of patients reported that they had not been asked about intimacy concerns before the palliative care consultation.
2)  A slight majority (56.2%) reported that illness had either significantly or moderately impacted intimacy.
3)  Most (96%) found the intimacy discussion helpful and wanted to discuss these issues with medical providers.
4)  A majority (70.5%) of patients at the end of life indicated their illness significantly or moderately impacted their intimacy.

The need for intimacy discussions between palliative care patients and healthcare providers is important, and patients do want to have them. These discussions should be included as a regular part of routine assessment. 

The Sexuality, Intimacy, and Menopause clinic (SIMS) is one of the first programs in the country to focus on rebuilding the lives of women after they have survived cancer. Many cancer survivors have issues with sexuality. The clinic was started by gynecological oncologist Dr. Elena Ratner and Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a specialist in menopause, in cooperation with Dr. Dwain Fehon, the chief of psychiatric services at Yale-New Haven Hospital. 



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.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Aging Taste, Smell Loss (Research, Video 4:16)


How are your sweet and salty taste buds doing? Have you noticed a change in the way they function? Are familiar odors smelling a little funny? While respiratory infections or injuries, and even dental problems might be possible causes, you could be experiencing a loss due to aging. Loss of taste and smell affects many people over the age of 50. This decline is very important. For example, your health could be negatively impacted by causing you to eat fewer foods. What about your eating spoiled food and not knowing it? Even more dangerous would be a gas leak or a fire that you can’t detect.

Taste and smell research with older adults reveals that taste loss does not appear to make elderly people prefer stronger flavors. But nutrition surveys have pointed to a greater consumption of sweet and salty foods. Apparently, real-life eating habits are also influenced by other social and psychological factors. Dietary strategies that can prevent the consequences of unhealthy eating habits by older adults should be examined more.

Loss of taste and smell are closely connected. You might be surprised by how the taste of foods disappears when you pinch your nose closed before you put them into your mouth. Most food flavors come from our ability to smell them, and when we do, something wonderful can happen. Think of the many memories certain tastes and smells bring to mind. Nothing can replace those holiday aromas or pleasing, seductive scents of particular people remembered with affection.

In this CBS video, reporter Seth Doane shares information on the loss of taste and smell and what science is doing about it.


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, December 5, 2016

Holiday Health Alert (Research, Older Adult Video 3:57)


Christmas and Independence Day are associated with increased heart failure emergency admissions immediately following these holidays? Older adults are taken to the hospital the most during these times. During the winter months, these emergencies actually peak around the holiday season. Major sporting events and intense encounters also play a role.

This information is the result of research involving patients with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure at the Einstein Medical Center over a 10-year period between January 1 and December 31. Comparisons were made between the rates of heart failure admissions on the holiday, 4 days following the holiday and the rest of the month for 5 specific days: Christmas day, New Year's day, Independence day, Thanksgiving day and Super Bowl Sunday.

The study included 22,727 heart failure admissions. Results indicated a significant increase in daily heart failure admissions following Independence day and Christmas day when compared to the rest of the month. All holidays apart from Super Bowl Sunday demonstrated lower admission rates on the holiday compared to the rest of the month.

What are some factors that could cause these findings?
1)    Overeating on holidays
2)    Emotional stressors
3)    Less exercise
4)    Postponed medical appointments due to the holidays

Seriously, who wants to experience an emergency room visit during or after the holidays? Caregivers near and far should be especially vigilant in evaluating the health of older adults during the holidays. On Good Morning Maryland @ 9, Dr. Alicia Arbaje from Johns Hopkins' School of Medicine explains details of maintaining healthy holidays for older adults.



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 28, 2016

Holiday Love Wishes After Death (Video 3:30)


Dying from ovarian cancer a few years ago, Brenda Schmitz had a lot on her mind. A wife and mother of four young boys, she envisioned leaving her family and a few others something very special that would enhance their lives and memories of her love for them in a most surprising manner. Her idea focused on a letter including her final wishes, a letter that was not like any most people normally write or receive. Brenda’s written expressions were to be delivered to a radio station after she died. Specific instructions indicated the letter could not be sent until something very special took place. 

Experience the real reason for the holiday season in “I Love You Whoever You Are,” Brenda’s heartwarming story about her unique end-of-life wishes.


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.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Power of Thank You (Gratitude Research, Video 3:27)

Thank you. We often say these words when we are moved by the virtue of others extending positive impressions to us. Thank you. We enjoy receiving these words disguised as grateful hugs that hold us so tightly we feel ribs of joy press against our essence. 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 glorius and special together, something akin to a soul-smacking kiss.

While it may seem obvious that gratitude has powerful feel-good benefits, considerable scientific research on gratitude also confirms, not only the goodness generated by our expressions of appreciation, but also our benefactors' fond sentiments regarding our shared response. Studies also report that an attitude of gratitude can improve our health. When people were asked to write five things for which they were grateful during a week, improvements in their well-being were evident in test results. These are some of the benefits illustrating the power of thank you:

1.    Better health
2.    Sounder sleep
3.    More satisfaction with life
4.    Kinder behavior

An added research bonus reports that the more we show appreciation for our blessings, the more blessings we receive. In this video, New York Times science columnist John Tierney joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss more health benefits of giving thanks and various ways to cultivate gratitude in our lives. Thank you!




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 14, 2016

Unclaimed Dead: Description, Ritual, Disposal (Research, Video 1:56)

Sometimes people die, and no one steps up to claim their remains. Perhaps the next of kin could not be found. Maybe they were found, but could not or would not take the responsibility for various reasons. Some bodies are donated to science, but many are not. Who are these bodies that may never receive an earthly send-off? In Macon, Indiana the statistics on unclaimed bodies vs. claimed bodies reported this:

1) The unclaimed dead were disproportionately male, slightly more likely to be Black, younger at death, and dead from natural causes.
2) They had unknown marital status and were equally likely as not to have next of kin.
3) Instead of dying in a hospital, they died from external causes, and they were subject to autopsy.
4) Nearly half of the unclaimed bodies had next of kin who did not claim them; the other half had no identifiable next of kin.
5) Most unclaimed bodies were identified by means of fingerprints or DNA.

What are medical examiners around the country doing as unclaimed bodies accumulate at morgues? Are bodies ever honored with death rituals? What about disposal of these remains? This is how it’s done in Detroit, Michigan.


A few years ago in Detroit, Michigan, I attended a death ritual service including a small community of people who meet monthly at a local funeral home where the morgue sends names and birthdates of unclaimed bodies. Anyone can attend. The day I participated, we paid our respects to 28 people. Together we engaged in a moving ritual honoring the unclaimed deceased. 

The service included heartfelt words, music, printed programs, American flags, candles, and beautiful white roses representing each deceased honoree. As the name and birthdate of each deceased person was read, our enthusiastic response of “May he/she rest in peace” felt exhilarating and empowering, knowing our presence served as testimony to their lives. We sang in celebration of this momentous occasion. Each honoree had been claimed.

In this video, Albert Samuels of the Detroit Wayne County medical examiner’s office, Betsy Deak of Perry Funeral Home, and Anthony Tocco of Knollwood Memorial Park explain how their organizations respond to honoring unclaimed bodies.




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 7, 2016

Women Veterans’ Military Sexual Assaults (Research, Video 5:07)


Sexual trauma experienced by women serving in the U.S. military is a topic many people avoid. It’s much easier to speak only in positive terms about the military while overlooking the horrendous injustices perpetrated within. Abuse covers a range of negative behaviors, but most of the research, treatment, and outreach are focused on sexual assaults and the experiences of individuals serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Protect Our Defenders Foundation is a human rights organization that honors, supports, and gives voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been raped or sexually assaulted by fellow service members.

This research on women veterans’ military sexual trauma is based on reports by women who described, not only their military sexual assaults, but also barriers to reporting incidents of sexual misconduct and sexual assault, and the challenges they faced when seeking care. Research data revealed these results:

1)   Out of 52 female veterans, most (90%) were subjected to at least one form of military sexual trauma.

2)   These included eight (15%) who attempted to report the incident(s).

3)   Over half of the assailants who assaulted them were of a higher rank than the survivors.

4)   The majority of veterans remained silent due to lack of options to report the status of the perpetrators and fear of retaliation.

Nineteen year-old Army PFC LaVena Johnson was found dead on a military base in Balad, Iraq. The U.S. Army ruled Lavena's death a suicide, but an autopsy report and photographs revealed Johnson had a broken nose, black eye, loose teeth, burns from a corrosive chemical on her genitals, and a gunshot wound that seemed inconsistent with suicide. In this video, LaVena's father, John Johnson, shares his family's fight to get answers from the military about his daughter's death.




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.