Friday, November 30, 2007

Conversation with Dr. Ira Byock on End-of-Life Care (Video 7:19 mins.)

Dr. Ira Byock is Director of Palliative Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and a major advocate for improving end-of-life care. Past president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, he is the author of several books, the most recent one being “The Four Things that Matter Most.”

This video conversation with Dr. Byock covers beneficial information for the healthcare profession and society in general regarding what should be done to improve the final chapter in our lives. His comments include the following:

1) Palliative care and how it differs from current medical practice
2) Personal preparation for the last chapter in life
3) Family preparations for one another’s end-of-life care

Dr. Byock explains that nationally we must face the inevitability of death and stop making prolonged life the main goal of mortal beings. He emphasizes the importance of addressing our emotional, social, and spiritual needs by deciding what our values are, considering what matters most, sharing with our families in whatever forms they exist, and putting our decisions in writing. April 16, which is National Healthcare Decision Day, and Thanksgiving Day are days selected to encourage end-of-life conversations; however, any day is a good day to discuss this crucial information.

You can view this video of Dr. Byock’s conversation about what we should be doing individually and nationally to improve end-of–life care.

Frances Shani Parker
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nursing Home Residents’ Vision and Quality of Life

Imagine that life is a blur with moving shadows of people wearing fading faces. What if you have to give up reading newspapers and watching television because they’re too hard to figure out? Suppose a time when you really could see well was only a memory, and you miss the joy you felt when life was sharp and clear. Did you know that large numbers of nursing home residents see the world in a blurred manner? Sure, it’s expected that eyesight could be declining in later years. But did you know that the lack of eye care for nursing home residents is widespread in America? If any population needs regular eye exams, it’s seniors in nursing homes.

University of Alabama researchers studied nursing home residents and discovered that residents who received eyeglasses had higher scores for general vision, reading, activities, hobbies, social interaction, and fewer depressive symptoms. It’s no surprise they concluded that basic eye care services (spectacle correction) have significant implications for improving quality of life.

Patients with vision that can be corrected easily should not have to guess which foods are on their dinner plates or wonder how their surroundings and people in them really look. Our seniors deserve so much more. The study states that steps should be taken to improve delivery and eye care utilization in America. I certainly hope this “revelation” opens eyes and produces results. This research study can be found in the JAMA Archives of Ophthalmology.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
“Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog”

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hospice and Palliative Care: Puppets, Depression, and Dementia (Video 3:20 mins.)

Although various forms of therapy are used to help terminally ill patients who are depressed or who have dementia, I was not familiar with puppet therapy for adults with these conditions. Puppets are used as tools for the puppeteer to communicate with these patients. The goal is to break down barriers that patients are experiencing and replace them with feelings of love and improved levels of communication.

The previously posted video to help hospice and palliative care patients with depression or dementia was removed from Youtube by the owner.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Hospice Volunteer Vigils: Final Days and Hours

This post is dedicated to Marcelyn Ann Stoddard, a hospice patient I never met. She died this week on October 29, 2007. Marcie had struggled with metastasized breast cancer for several years. Last month, Frank Pruett, her loving husband and caregiver, started a blog titled Moments of Marcie, in which he chronicled their final days together. I recently discovered this honest and heartfelt blog. Frank and Marcie were an inspiration for many who supported them through the hospice vigil.

Thousands of hospice volunteers are being recruited daily just like I was years ago. People follow that path for different reasons. For many, it is a unique opportunity to serve others at a critical time in their lives. Hospice volunteering has everything to do with using good common sense and applying knowledge gained through ongoing training. When it comes to patients, it is more about the volunteer being there with them than what the volunteer actually does. The patient senses and appreciates the volunteer’s presence.

The importance of being with a patient who doesn’t want to die alone is the reason many hospice programs are providing specialized volunteer vigil training. During vigil training, a volunteer is taught how to provide bedside support during the final days and hours of a patient’s life. Assistance for families is included. At some facilities, staff members also volunteer for vigil assignments. Vigils, which are based on a patient’s wishes, can include talking, praying, inspirational reading, playing music, performing rituals, touching and, of course, sharing silence. Reflecting the hospice philosophy, volunteer vigils help provide the patient with a more peaceful end-of-life experience.

Many healthcare staff members who work with dying patients will tell you they have had patients share stories about seeing dead people, ghosts, spirits they recognize, and angels. View this post for my personal story and an informative video:

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog