Author: Frances Shani Parker
Book Reviewer: Dr. Peter A. Lichtenberg, Director, Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
Frances Shani Parker makes death and the dying a vivid part of life in her book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes. Ms. Parker describes the beginning of her journey into the world of hospice in the early chapters, engaging us in stories about men she knew who had HIV/AIDS and were dying. Her writing is excellent, and we see these men as whole individuals and not just as people dying. Ms. Parker brings her extraordinary gift of being able to see the many aspects of a person even when often these are covered up by pain, disease, or dementia.
Part One of the book contains many stories of people and her experiences with them in nursing home settings. Ms. Parker astutely observes the challenges of nursing home staff as well and eloquently writes some of their stories. Ultimately, we are treated in this first section to Ms. Parker’s love and compassion for those she serves and her humility in serving them. Her writing is tinged with profound respect for the individuals she worked with and helped. Each chapter closes with her lessons learned and her own poetry, much of which is compelling.
In Part Two, Ms. Parker broadens her book and gives advice and resources for the problems of caregiving, funerals, bereavement, hospice, and her dream for the future: Baby Boomer Haven. This part of the book is full of useful guides and facts, which will benefit all people caring for a loved one.
Ms. Parker was a school principal by profession. That title conjures up images of authority and power. It is thus striking that this book brings the stories of urban elders to the fore. Poverty, which so often makes people invisible, is not ignored here, but the stories of the human struggle, fear, kindnesses, and hopes predominate. This may be Ms. Parker’s greatest gift to her readers: bringing to life people and events that are indeed so often invisible. This book is truly a gift. The writing is eloquent and powerful, and the stories are instructive and lasting. After finishing this book, I wanted to do more for other individuals who are dying, for as Ms. Parker so clearly imparts, the dying teach us so much about living well.
Praise for Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes from Roger Woodruff, Director of Palliative Care, International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, Austin Health, Melbourne, Australia
"A school principal and hospice volunteer, Frances Shani Parker relates her experiences with dying people in nursing homes. The second part of the book is about what we as individuals and as a society must do to improve things for those who are dying. I particularly enjoyed the guided tour, conducted from a wheelchair, of Baby Boomer Haven."
"I have been working in the hospice industry full time for several years and I have not seen a better depiction of this topic. Ms. Parker's book gives the most descriptive and genuine look into the true nature of hospice. Most people don't truly know the many benefits of hospice. Ms. Parker's book is informative, straightforward, factual, and timely. I think her book should be used for training in hospice courses and within hospice organizations across the country."
Stephanie Bowden, Palliative Care Liaison
"Frances Shani Parker used to be a school principal. Then she became a hospice volunteer and has written about her experiences in nursing homes. I received a copy of her book and it is excellent. I recommend it to anyone who works in a hospice setting, and for all CNA’s as well. I will venture to ask that DON’s and Administrators have a look too. Sometimes people in higher places at nursing homes forget some of Frances’ important lessons."
Patti Green, Co-Writer of CNA Blog Titled Nursing Assistant Resources on the Web
Alice Hedt - Director, National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
Karyne Jones - President, National Caucus and Center on Black Aged
Dr. Naomi Long Madgett – Editor, Publisher, Poet Laureate of Detroit, Michigan
Dr. James C. Kielsmeir - President, National Youth Leadership Council (Chapter on Intergenerational Partnerships)
Nelda Brown - Executive Director, National Service-Learning Partnership at the Academy for Educational Development (Chapter on Intergenerational Partnerships)
You can view excerpts from Becoming Dead Right here, including a video poem with over 23,700 views.
You can read another review of the book here by Dr. Naomi Long Madgett - Editor, Publisher and Poet Laureate of Detroit, Michigan