Sunday, June 28, 2009

Caregiving with Music Enhances Communication

Are you a caregiver? Do you sing? Do you enjoy playing music? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you have the ability to add vitality and meaning to patients’ lives, especially those who have dementia. Music and singing can uplift their spirits.

A study was done to enhance vocally expressed emotions and moods in the communication between caregivers and persons with severe dementia. Participants included nine nursing home residents with dementia and five professional caregivers. The presence of background music and caregiver singing enhanced the communication between caregivers and residents. Background music promoted playfulness. Caregiver singing improved sincerity and intimacy in their interactions.

How do these results influence you as a caregiver who sings or plays music? They support your efforts to provide quality of life for patients with dementia. Take the time to find kinds of music you think patients will enjoy. Let the magic play.

You can read the research that was reported in the “International Journal of Nursing Studies.”

In this video, Mary Peakes, a hospice nurse, sings "I Wanna Go" to patient Pamela Rucker, who died a few days later. Pamela’s daughter stated, “I want to thank all the hospice nurses. I am so grateful for these angels who helped my mother and her family through this difficult time.”

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

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Processing Grief Through Art: Drawing a Dying Loved One (Video 2:30 mins.)

Those of you who have grieved at the bedside of a dying loved one can probably recall the many streams of thoughts that confronted you. Grace Graupe Pillard experienced her own unique recollections while drawing pictures of her dying mother every time she visited her bedside.

Grace makes it clear that she and her mother had a rocky, but affectionate, relationship. Her mother, a refugee from Nazi Germany, was receiving hospice care at the time. While drawing, Grace began to experience her mother in an objective way for the first time. An intimacy evolved between them that she had not known before. Her mother knew she was being drawn. In spite of their turbulent differences, their similarities surfaced. In the last picture of this visual diary, her mother’s mouth is open.

After studying scanned pictures of her mother, Grace noticed clearly in the flow of the lines the different emotions she had felt while drawing. She says her artistic involvement in her mother’s dying helped her to process the grief of losing someone who was such an important part of her life. Grace created an exhibition of her drawings in a show titled “Stop Stealing My Face.”

This video showcases an interview with Grace Graupe Pillard and displays of her artwork.

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

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Friendship, Loneliness, and Senior Women Living Alone (Video: 1:04 min.)

Do senior women with family members who live nearby really need friends as much as senior women without family members living nearby? According to this research, they do. Reported in the “Journal of Gerontological Nursing,” a study by the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls examined the role of friends in predicting loneliness among women over age 65 who lived alone. Researchers hypothesized that those women who didn’t have family members living nearby would be lonelier than those who did. Well, that didn’t happen. It turns out that “close friends were important for women living alone, regardless of whether they had family living locally.” This information is noteworthy because it emphasizes the need for making social connections a priority in the lives of older women who live alone, regardless of their local family connections.

This video titled "Knitting Together" showcases a group of older women who socialize through weekly knitting sessions. A woman shares near the end, “I’m here to enjoy the company.”

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

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hospice Volunteer Book Review: Meeting the Death Monster in Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes

In America, death is still a terminally ill taboo in great need of palliative-hospice care. Too many people avoid talking, hearing, writing, or reading about the end of life. As an author and consultant on hospice and eldercare, I have been told on several occasions that the topic is just too “depressing” or too “final.” Several months ago, this reluctance to deal with death visited a friendship. I had given a casual friend a copy of my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes. Not knowing her feelings about death, I decided not to talk to her about the book unless she brought it up. Recently, she did. I’ll call her Alice.

Alice works in the healthcare profession, so I was somewhat surprised to discover that she feels strongly that death, a frightening stalker of her dreams, is her enemy. She shared that death has stolen too many of her loved ones, including pets. She helplessly dreads the thought of losing even more. My own acceptance of death, which comes across clearly in my conversations and writings, seems inappropriate to her. She finds my views too accepting of her enemy, too casual a regard for life. While she says she would consider hospice care along with other options, she admits she could never be even an average hospice volunteer.

What is her feedback regarding my book? She loves the patients’ stories and my comments about interacting with various people in the nursing home world. The original poetry, which concludes each chapter and probably nudges her own poetic abilities, pleases her. She finds the discussions on caregiving, dementia, death rituals, and bereavement informative. The explanations about school-nursing home partnerships and the ideal nursing home described in the chapter “Baby Boomer Haven” are particularly enjoyable. But she dislikes emphatically the premise that there is a “right” way to die.

I am not sure if her hostility toward death has changed much, but I hope that this book meeting with what she refers to as “the monster” has impacted her positively on some level. Those of us who embrace the topic of death will continue to be viewed with dismay by those who deal with mortality through avoidance and resignation of themselves and loved ones as victims of death’s malicious powers.

Alice’s revelations reinforce the importance of promoting death as a natural part of life that should be experienced with dignity by everyone. One person at a time, I believe conversations and writings enhance lives of the naysayers by slowly empowering them with death acceptance, even as they resist the message. I appreciate Alice’s frankness in sharing death’s painful presence in her life and in giving feedback on my book. Most of all, I commend her willingness to become a ball of courage rolling into the high weeds where the death monster lives.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.