Monday, January 14, 2008

“The Bucket List” Movie: A Hospice Nursing Home Volunteer’s Review (Video Trailer 2:28 mins.)

All these years, we’ve joked about “kicking the bucket,” and now we learn there’s a list inside the bucket. “The Bucket List” is a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as terminally ill cancer patients. They meet as strangers with seemingly nothing in common, except a hospital room they share. Gradually, they bond and commit to leaving the hospital in order to accomplish adventurous goals on their bucket list. Fortunately, Nicholson’s character is a billionaire who can foot the globetrotting bills. With only months to live, the two men forge a special friendship through laughter and tears. They savor some of life’s final thrills by skydiving, racing cars, and visiting world wonders.

That’s a summary of the movie I saw today while enjoying my “kiddie pack” refreshments. What the summary doesn't mention is that the movie nudges audiences into thoughts of personal end-of-life journeys, that it helps them unravel philosophical lessons they tend to ignore, that it attracts people in large numbers in spite of critics who pan it. There are those who snicker with condescension and label "The Bucket List” a feel-good movie about death and mortality. A hospice volunteer, I smile, just thinking what a compliment that is.

What’s on your bucket list?

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.


  1. Hi Francais,

    I have not seen this movie yet, but have seen the commercials and it looks worthy of a trip to the movies! I do not have a bucket list. However, as a licensed nursing home administrator, I have a profesional bucket list.

    Tops on that list is to eliminate needless regulation that gets in the way of providing end of life care and services to residents in nursing homes. Here is my story.

    We recently (within last 6 months) helped to men move to our nursing home unit, the Gregory Wing. Both were residing in a residential care setting. Both had a terminal condition and had become very ill.

    In the State of Maine, anyone accessing nursing home services is required to go through the State Assessment agency. This agency sends out an RN to certify that services are necessary. Both men easily qualified and moved to the Gregory Wing.

    The Gregory Wing care team helps them improve remarkably both physically and psychosocially over their first 90-days at the facility. Believe it or not,here is where the problem resides.

    The State of Maine requires a folow up 90-day assessment to insure people continue to qualify for nursing home services. Upon reassessment, both men are deemed to not qualify!

    As advocates, we appeal this decision. However, the rules of the hearing only allow a review of the exact information used by the RN assessor at the time of the assessment. We lose again!

    The only possibility for each resident to continue to reside on the Gregory Wing is to have a clinical decline, generating a signifcant change MDS (federal level of care tool) leading to another request for a new assessment. What a great way to deal with people at the end of life!

    Imagine being a nursing home resident on hospice care, just moved to a new environment, feeling and looking better, dealing with the psychosocial aspects of death and dying, making new friends, and having to worry about another move to a new environment because the nursing home staff did too good a job in taking care of you!

    We are working with our state association and local legislators to work on providing an alternative to seniors in siutations like this. Wish us luck!

    By the way, one of our dear friends passed away recently just before his appeal. Our other friend and his family desire to continue residing on the Gregory Wing and we are going to make that happen!

    Mark Lowell