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Monday, July 30, 2007

Service-Learning Intergenerational Partnerships: Schools and Nursing Homes


Note: Winner of the National Service-Learning Partnership Trailblazer Award, Frances Shani Parker, a national consultant and former schoolwide service-learning principal, has been instrumental in implementing service-learning in school districts across the country. Her book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes includes a chapter on intergenerational partnerships between schools and nursing homes.


What if I’m a student who needs mentoring, diverse experiences, and opportunities to share my skills with others? What if I’m a nursing home resident wishing I had some visitors, thinking I can still make positive contributions, looking forward to interacting with young people? If this sounds like a match between an itch and a scratch, you’ll understand why service-learning is so important.

Service-learning is a teaching and learning approach that connects learning with meeting community needs. It’s not the same as community service, although that’s another good service practice. Service-learning evolves from learning objectives in a school or community group setting. For example, after students learn how to write letters, service-learning would include writing letters to community people who would benefit from receiving their letters. Of course, service recipients might show their appreciation by writing students letters in response. The exchange is always win-win, even when the rewards are intangible. And they often are.

Nursing homes are ideal places for students to visit and share what they are learning in school. Residents provide welcome audiences for students eager to perform their skits, songs, and poetry. Students can display and explain class projects and interview residents in supportive environments. Afterwards, they can mingle with residents and let the magic of intergenerational communication work to everyone’s mutual benefit. A growing body of research shows that students improve academically, as well as affectively, as a result of service-learning.

Because teachers prepare students well before their nursing home visits, students know what to expect. If a resident falls asleep or cries, students understand why that’s okay. The word "dementia" can be added to their vocabulary with relevance and meaning. They are open to the experience of being with the elderly and the challenged. They take pride in the roles they play in enriching lives. After they return to school, students reflect on how the nursing home visit affected them, what they learned, and ways to share that information with others.

You know how good it feels when the perfect scratch soothes all your itching? Service-learning is something like that. You can read research our fourth graders did in partnership with nursing home residents on ageism stereotypes here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/intergenerational-service-learning-student-nursing-home-parker?trk=mp-author-card

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

Monday, July 23, 2007

Elderly Brain Health: It's Never Too Late to Exercise.

Do you really lose it if you don’t use it? Is it no pain, no healthy brain? That depends on the people you ask. Before you start asking, however, keep in mind the DNA factor that we all have when it comes to heredity. Aside from that, we can do a lot ourselves to keep from losing our capacities to stay sharp mentally and possibly keep dementia at bay. An important key is to start exercising our brains early when we are young, in preparation for when we get old. But it’s never too late to start.

Speaking of brain exercise, here’s one submitted by Javan at Braingle: Brain Teasers, Puzzles, Riddles, Trivia, and Games. Answers are at the end of this post:

Find out what the animals are! For example, "to run away or escape" would be a "flea.”

1. Hair-control foam
2. Very exposed
3. Telling falsities
4. A lamenting cry
5. A dull person
6. A precious or loved one
7. First, you get a parking ticket, and then you get this.
8. These make up a chain.

A study by Advanced Cognitive Training for Independence and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE), which included about 3,000 volunteers, concluded that after 18 instructional hours of varied thinking skills, participants were still better at those skills five years later. Learning to do new and challenging activities during old age has its benefits.

Even better is coming to old age with a history of being mentally active, with brain power in reserve. Good nutrition and physical exercise will enhance chances of success even more. One study showed that physical exercise by seniors increases brain power. Start crunching and doing that brain cardio. You can listen to more about maintaining a healthy brain in old age at the NPR.org Web site.

Okay, here are the animal answers:

1.Moose (Mousse)
2. Bear (Bare)
3. Lion (Lyin')
4. Whale (Wail)
5. Boar (Bore)
6. Deer (Dear)
7. Toad (Towed)
8. Lynx (Links)

Whether you have them all right or not, your brain is healthier for trying. Congratulations!


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

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hospice in Prison: Inmate Volunteers (Video 4:17 mins.)

Hospice volunteering continues to evolve and diversify. In previous posts, I have explored hospice volunteers for pets and hospice volunteer medical students. How about prison inmates as hospice volunteers? It’s a great solution, particularly for an aging prison population. If a terminally ill patient is in prison, attentive caregiving can be especially beneficial when given by familiar faces of those who have also experienced the prison system.

A partnership between the McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution and Hospice and Palliative Care of Connecticut trains inmates who volunteer for hospice service. Participants learn how to implement the hospice philosophy by using supportive strategies with fellow inmates who are dying. Inmates who volunteer realize that they may die in prison one day and would want quality end-of-life care for themselves.

Tone, the first terminally ill inmate to benefit from the hospice volunteer program speaks favorably about the activities he shares with his volunteer. He appreciates not having to feel isolated at such a critical time in his life. If he is still alive after he has served his sentence, he will continue in hospice care outside the prison system with a new volunteer.

At a more recent blog post, you can read about and view a video showcasing hospice volunteer inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

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

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Culture Change in Nursing Homes: Sexual Orientation (LGBT)

A supporter of culture change in nursing homes, Barry Berman, the executive director of the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home Foundation, says his organization sees a need for skilled-nursing services and care targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) market. The building of what will probably be the first skilled-nursing home LGBT facility in America will address that concern.

Due to misunderstandings or intolerance by others, elders of the LGBT community are sometimes made to feel uncomfortable about their sexual orientations and lifestyles. In some nursing home environments, they may be criticized or ostracized for doing what heterosexuals consider normal for themselves during everyday living. This includes such practices as spending time with their partners, reading LGBT materials, and freely sharing personal opinions.

The Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home Foundation will begin construction next year on a $26 million nursing home complex, which will have specialized units for the elderly with specific diseases and needs. Targeted health areas include Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), blindness, and multiple sclerosis. One ten-bedroom unit will be used by elderly LGBT residents. The LGBT unit, which should open in 2009, will be called the Elsie Frank House, named after a famous openly gay political leader and the late mother of U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton). You can read this “Boston Herald” news article for more information about this specialized implementation of culture change in nursing homes.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cemetery Technology: After Death – What would Grandma say?

Remember the good old days when you went to the cemetery with relatives to clean Grandma’s grave and leave flowers? Nowadays, this visitation takes on a whole new meaning. With all the pictures and symbols etched into stone, some granite headstones look more like scrapbooks. After all, a cemetery is about remembering. Now, there’s the Memory Medallion, a memory chip embedded into Grandma’s headstone, plaque, or monument, so you can see her picture while she tells you about her life and dishes out some old-school advice. In addition to this, hyperlinks can give you access to more information, photographs, videos, etc. that can be viewed on your hand-held computer or laptop.

Don’t feel like walking around graves? Go to a drive-by cemetery with low, tilted monuments that you can read while passing through. No need to get out of the car when you can look out the window. Don’t even worry about the time of day. Grandma’s tombstone glows in the dark.

Prefer not leaving home at all? Try one of several Web cemeteries like the World Wide Cemetery on the Internet. Grandma can rest in peace there with over 30 million other people keeping her company. Some cemeteries include pets. After entering through the virtual gate entrance, you can add family photos, sounds, hyperlinks to other sites, and your personalized memorial text. Did I mention you can leave flowers and a donation? Just give the okay. Checks and credit cards are respectfully accepted.

Finally, do you just want to connect with Grandma and not deal with cemeteries at all? No problem. Grandma can write plenty of e-mails addressed to you before she dies and arrange to have them delivered to you periodically after her death. It’s just another way to reach out and touch.

Death really hasn’t changed much. But our approaches to memorializing it have. Some say all this technology trivializes death and takes away from the spirituality. Others say it customizes their true feelings and the spirit of the deceased. My, my, what would your grandma say about all this?

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hospice Care and Advance Directives

Advance directives are important legal documents that can be completed long before a patient is ill. The healthcare power of attorney, also known as the durable power of attorney for healthcare, designates the healthcare proxy, who is the person assigned to make medical decisions for the patient when the patient is no longer able to do so. The living will states the patient’s wishes regarding the administration of end-of-life medical treatment when the patient cannot state them.

Advance directives are available at hospitals, physicians’ offices, legal offices, state health departments, and on the Internet. All states do not have the same forms. People can register completed forms at the U.S. Living Will Registry, which makes their requests available to hospitals and healthcare providers across the country 24 hours a day.

In a national research study on advance directives, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that of the 1,587 who died in nursing homes, hospitals, and at home, 70.8% had Advance Directives. Hospice patients were more likely to have them. Patients with Advance Directives were less likely to use a feeding tube or respirator during the last month of life. Among other conclusions, the study determined that Advance Directives were associated with greater use of hospice and fewer concerns with physician communication and information about what to expect.

The Five Wishes document is unique among all other living will and health agent forms because it looks to all of a person's needs: medical, personal, emotional and spiritual. This document helps people express how they want to be treated if they are seriously ill and unable to speak for themselves. Click here for more information on the Five Wishes document.

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