Monday, July 28, 2008

Alzheimer’s Disease: Research on Hispanics, African Americans, and Whites (Caregiver Video 2:48 mins.)

Alzheimer’s disease has both similarities and differences in knowledge, awareness, and cultural beliefs among groups defined by race and ethnicity. This has been documented in research by the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, MI.

For example, both African American and Hispanic respondents tend to believe that Alzheimer’s disease is a normal part of aging. These groups were more optimistic about future research advances than whites were. On the other hand, more than whites and African Americans, Hispanics were more likely to report feeling well-prepared for handling a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in a family member. In general, the research results support the need for more public education about the disease.

In this video titled “Extended Interview with Alzheimer's Caregiver, Ric Gomez,” an Hispanic caregiver, who quit his job so he could take care of his father, speaks honestly about ongoing challenges and good times they experience. His father is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sexuality, Hospice-Palliative Care and Senior Citizens (Video: 3:56 mins.)

Like death, sex is another American taboo that many people avoid discussing, particularly when it relates to senior citizens. Including palliative or hospice care in the discussion can be even more difficult. Inaccurate stereotypes often surface during sexuality conversations. Why is an old man interested in sex called a “dirty old man,” but an interested young man isn’t? Why do people think the elderly outgrow all their sexual desires? Sex doesn’t belong to youth, and safe sex practices belong to all ages.

Living with terminal illness can be traumatic to patients’ sexual well-being. Communication is critical for making good sexual adjustments during this vulnerable time. Professional help can often make this transition easier. According to the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Carethere is a place for sexuality, depending on patients’ conditions, during a terminal illness. Health professionals should acknowledge and support patients’ desires to function sexually within their abilities. In fact, health professionals should initiate this discussion.

Seniors who are not terminally ill should also have their sexuality recognized and accepted. Dr. Myrtle Wilhite, medical director of A Woman’s Touch Sexuality Resources, does this by teaching a sexuality class for seniors. She says she teaches them the same things she teaches nurses. Whether it’s technique, anatomy, and everything else in between, she makes sure they leave with all the information she can give them to enjoy their sexuality, including tips on what to do when sex doesn’t work out right.

As one senior stated, “I still enjoy hearing about sex and all that.” Now, if we can just get more seniors and others to say, “I enjoy hearing about death and all that.” Hopefully, millions of baby boomers will make that statement a common one in the near future.

This video gives a classroom view of the senior sexuality class.

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

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hospice and Nursing Homes: Granting Dying Patients’ Last Wishes (Video 2:05 mins.)

This post includes an excerpt from my book, "Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes.” In the last chapter, titled “Baby Boomer Haven,” a patient named Ruth takes readers on a tour of her nursing home, which is based on best practices of limited numbers of nursing homes around the country. This is how she describes the hospice wing:

“Serenity permeates everything that goes on here. Many of our hospice patients enjoy music therapy to help soothe them through various stages of their illnesses. One of our community partners finances a “Wishing Well” project for hospice patients by making a wish come true for them. Recently, a patient had a special visit from a close friend with whom he had lost track for many years. The friend’s trip was financed through the “Wishing Well” project. Two days after their heartwarming reunion, the patient died. At the family’s request, the hospice chaplain coordinated a memorial service held here in our chapel. I was one of many who paid my respects to that kind gentleman.”

© Frances Shani Parker

Granting last wishes of hospice patients is a service provided to enhance quality of life during death journeys. This video shows another example of how fulfilled wishes can enrich patients’ lives.

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