Thursday, December 25, 2008

Delaying Dementia with Bilingual Ability

Can you speak more than one language? If you can, you may have a better chance at delaying the onset of dementia symptoms. Dementia refers to a group of conditions that gradually destroy brain cells and lead to mental decline. Many conditions can cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause. Most people who have the disease are over sixty-five, with eighty being the average age of diagnosis.

Toronto researchers say that fluency in two or more languages may be able to stave off cognitive decline because of the mental agility required to juggle them in day-to-day life. Principal investigator Ellen Bialystok, an associate scientist at the Rotman Research Institute of the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care, states, "How you learn the language probably doesn't make much difference; how good your grammar is probably doesn't matter. What matters is that you have to manage two complete language systems at once."

Among the unilingual people studied, dementia began to appear in men at an average age of 70.8 and in women at 71.9. Among those who knew two or more languages, dementia did not begin to appear in men until an average age of 76.1 and in women until 75.1.

You can read more about this research in this “Toronto Globe and Mail” news article.

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hospice Volunteer Memorial for Deceased Patients: Christmas Remembrance Tree (Video 2:57 mins.)

Hospice workers experience patients’ deaths on a regular basis. The frequency of these experiences can sometimes cause the individuality of each death to be overshadowed by the totality of them all. Al Poeppel, a hospice volunteer, has found a special way to honor each of his departed patients during the Christmas season.

The outdoor Christmas remembrance tree created by Poeppel is his labor of love. The decorated tree celebrates his deceased patients, supports their families, and encourages introspection among the general public admiring the impressive tree as they drive by. Each tree ornament bears a deceased patient’s name that helps Poeppel reflect on the times he shared with that person. Poeppel thinks families appreciate knowing that their loved ones are remembered. He also hopes that the tree reminds others of the importance of making the most of life.

In this video, you can view Poeppel’s amazing Christmas remembrance tree and hear his heartwarming story.

Season’s greetings to all of you who read my two-year-old blog. I hope the new year brings you many rainbow smiles.

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" – Intl. Trailer (2:35 mins.)

I’m a little partial to movies set in New Orleans, my hometown, and movies that deal with the elderly and mortality. This movie about a man named Benjamin Button (played by Brad Pitt), who is born in his eighties and ages backward, really grabbed me by the collar. His unusual story covers a time period from the end of World War I in 1918 to the 21st century.

Aging, a fascinating theme, is something none of us can stop, as much as we try to wrestle it to the ground. How extraordinary to live the highs and lows of life’s unpredictable journey, moving toward infancy while others become older! This movie, adapted from the classic 1920's story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, begins December 25, 2008.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas, Tilda Swinton

5 Golden Globe Nominations, including Best Picture

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

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bereavement Support: Holiday Grief (Video Poem 4:00 mins.)

The holidays can be a troubling time for many who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Through the years, people associate holiday traditions with familiar people and places. My book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes includes these suggestions for dealing with grief during the holidays:

“Mourners have to decide the best ways they can adjust to the holidays. One option is to create new holiday traditions. If holidays were celebrated as a family, new traditions can be planned as a family, so everyone can have input. This will give family members an opportunity to discuss their feelings about the deceased loved one and possibly include something in the new tradition that commemorates that person in an uplifting manner. This could be a type of memorial that adds pleasure to holidays in the future, something that would have pleased the deceased.

Whether celebrating the holidays alone, with others, or not at all, people should always follow their hearts and do what feels best for them. There is no one way for everyone. There are different ways that work well for different people. Some people who found the holidays stressful, phony, or too commercial before their loved one died may want to redirect their holiday focus. They might choose to participate in an activity that is calmer and more meaningful to them such as volunteering at places where they can help others or sharing with others in another capacity. Others may want to celebrate alone or with a few friends, take a trip to another state or country, or just be involved with something they enjoy doing that may or may not have anything to do with the holidays, but everything to do with their own quality of life."

© Frances Shani Parker

This video by offers bereavement support based on the sympathy poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.” The poem comforts with thoughts that the deceased loved one is reflected in nature.

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