Saturday, January 26, 2008

Nurses and Nurse Assistants (CNA’s): Stress in Nursing Homes

Who knows stress better than the people who carry it around everyday? These research results came directly from nurses and nurse assistants (CNA’s) in twenty-five nursing homes in North Carolina. This is what they had to say:


The situations most stressful for nurses were not having enough staff, having too much work to do, interruptions, having non-health professionals determine how they do their jobs, poor pay, and being responsible for patients' outcomes. Nurses were more likely than nurse assistants to report stress because non-health professionals (e.g. surveyors) determine how they must perform their services.

Nurse Assistants (CNA’s):

The most stressful situations for nurse assistants included poor pay, not enough staff, and too much work to do. Nurse assistants were more likely than nurses to report stress because they do not have adequate information regarding patients' conditions.


The findings of this study support the need to increase recognition for nursing, improve staffing, and provide competitive compensation in nursing homes. Were you surprised by these results? I wasn’t either. But it’s still another validation of the staff stress problems and the need for positive changes in nursing home reform.

You can read more about this research in the "Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.”

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

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hospice Team: Jewish Funeral Practices (Video 4:15 mins.)

Being aware of various cultural and religious traditions in our diverse society is especially important for hospice workers because we are often invited to attend rituals such as funerals of deceased patients. Families appreciate sensitivity and respect regarding practices they embrace. However, even within various cultures and religions, there are differences, so asking family members questions is far better than making assumptions or creating stereotypes about large groups of people.

The first time I attended a Jewish funeral, I was surprised by how different it was from Christian funerals I had experienced. The casket was closed; there were no flowers; the service was short and simple. I welcomed the new ritual and asked questions about procedures I didn’t understand. After I became a hospice volunteer, I benefited from the knowledge gained at that Jewish service and services of other groups.

These are some examples and explanations regarding Jewish funerals:

1) The casket is closed out of respect for the deceased.
2) Embalming and cremation are not allowed, so the body can deteriorate naturally.
3) Flowers are not killed to honor someone who has died.
4) Burial takes place soon out of respect for the deceased.

This video titled Jewish Funeral Practices 101 gives a detailed description of Jewish funeral practices.

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

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.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Therapy Dogs and Cats Improve Human Health (Video 2:37 mins.)

A few years ago, my elderly friend and her dog were in a serious car accident. The experience was very traumatic for her and the dog. Because of my friend’s physical injuries, she and her dog were separated immediately after the accident, so she could stay at a rehabilitation center.

Slowly, my friend made progress, but she missed her dog a lot. The picture with this post shows their happy reunion the day I brought her dog to visit. I also noticed the heightened joy of many staff members when they interacted with the dog. His presence brought many smiles.

I didn’t need research to tell me that some healing had taken place, but it’s good to know that the results of positive exchanges between pets and people are scientifically measurable. The American Heart Association verifies that heart failure patients who spent 12 minutes with a dog or cat had lower stress hormones and blood pressure levels.

Pets are being certified to improve patients’ health in nursing homes and hospitals. Pets’ many contributions include helping stroke survivors with physical therapy and assisting mentally disabled patients in learning chores. It doesn’t matter what breed the pets are, as long as they have sound temperaments and can pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test. Thousands of dogs and smaller numbers of cats serve as therapy pets. They seem to know instinctively that they are there to help patients. And this video shows that’s exactly what they do.

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nursing Homes and Hospice Organizations, How Can Students Serve You?

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.

Nursing homes and hospice organizations, how can students serve you, at your locations or elsewhere, under the supervision of their teachers or service coordinators? Service-learning is a teaching and learning approach that connects classroom learning with meeting community needs. For example, after learning how to write letters, students extend that learning into the community by writing real letters to nursing home residents, if that meets a need at that nursing home. Everyone involved benefits from the experience. As a former school principal of an urban public school with all 600 students involved in service-learning, I know how successful this approach can be.

Hospice organizations, most students have no idea what hospice is or the role students (K-college) can play in supporting you in the office or elsewhere. This kind of early hospice involvement with young people will do a lot to promote hospice on a long-term basis. While student involvement in nursing homes is more well known, perhaps the kinds of involvement can be extended. This is how students are introduced early to healthcare career choices in fields that have serious staff shortages today.

So, what are your needs? These are the grade-level categories to consider:
Elementary School, Middle School, High School, and College
If you would leave me a few comments stating what students in any or all these grade-level categories can do that would meet needs of nursing homes or hospice organizations, I will compile this information and pass it on to teachers and service coordinators I consult with across the country. Please state the grade-level categories and the service students can perform.

This is a sample response that you can write at the bottom of this post on the right. Just click "Comments" (next to the pencil).

1) Your Name or Name of Organization, City/State (all optional)

2) Grade-Level Category (elementary school, middle school, high school, college) You can choose more than one category.

3) Student Service Activities:

We need students to provide these services:



Thank you for your participation in supporting service-learning partnerships. There is a chapter on school partnerships and nursing homes in my book,Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes.You can also read more about service-learning at this previous post titled “Service Learning and Nursing Homes: Intergenerational Partnerships.”

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Latinos, African Americans, and Alzheimer’s Disease (Audio 5:55 mins.)

According to a study reported in “Neurology®,”
Latinos and African Americans with Alzheimer's disease live longer than Caucasians who have the disease. Variables such as education level, age when symptoms began, living situation, and other factors that could affect how long the study participants lived did not change the results. The study involved about 31,000 people who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Latino participants lived about 40 percent longer than Caucasian participants, and African American participants lived 15 percent longer than Caucasians. Asian and American Indian participants lived about as long as Caucasians. Author of the study, Kala Mehta, DSc, said, "Possible explanations may be underlying genetic or cultural factors." Other possible factors were varying levels of social support from extended family, varying levels of health and diseases in addition to Alzheimer's disease, varying levels of treatment of other diseases, and differences in measurement or earlier diagnosis in some groups. Another factor could be length of stay in the United States. These findings can impact healthcare planning of Alzheimer’s disease.

You can hear more about Alzheimer’s disease and treatment, including additional information about African Americans, at this website.

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