Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cane-Fu: Martial Arts for the Elderly (Video 1:59 mins.)

Although the U.S. Justice Department states that the elderly are the least likely to be targeted by violent crimes, it doesn’t hurt for them to be prepared and in better physical shape if they are attacked. And a cane is one weapon that can be carried anywhere. Sure, everybody jokes about using the everyday walking cane as a weapon, but at a retirement home in Maryland and at about 100 locations around the country, they aren’t joking. Cane-fu classes have been going on about ten years.

The goal, of course, is confidence building, a trait that can help anyone feel stronger and more in control. Seniors learn specific skills to help defend themselves and incorporate physical exercise during the learning process. Just knowing that the cane can do more than help them walk is empowering. Many of the class participants say they don’t walk the streets alone anyway.

Hopefully, most seniors will never have to defend themselves with canes, and it’s certainly not encouraged for the weak. I have observed how many seniors enjoy exercises using the Wii games and doing Zumba dance aerobics to Latin rhythms. Cane-fu fighting is another sign of the times, particularly in terms of senior exercise.

In this video, seniors participate in a Cane-fu class.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Caregiver Abuse: Does Everyone Have a Breaking Point?

I often wonder if people realize the full impact of what they are saying when they make statements about what they would never do, particularly when they are judging others. Many things people said they would never do, regrettably, they have done. This brings up the topic of elder abuse by caregiving family members. More and more cases of abuse toward elderly patients are being reported. This abuse can be physical, psychological, and exploitative. Many times the abuse occurs in shared living situations with caregivers.

Many people believe everyone has a breaking point, a moral boundary that must not be crossed. Caregivers overwhelmed with depression, guilt, anger, and other stressors may have difficulty not crossing over this boundary, even though they know they shouldn’t. This is one reason why caregivers must always be mindful of taking care of and monitoring themselves. Often assistance from others is, not only helpful, but also mandatory, to prevent abuses from happening. Hospice team members and others can help with these needs and refer caregivers to those who can help them.

Caregivers need respite time away from patients, so they can share their experiences, gain
information from others, and relieve stress. They need programs that save them time and make them feel that they are cared about. They need others to be their caregivers by temporarily relieving their burdens, sharing an uplifting activity, being good listeners, and providing encouragement.

You can view a video about a caregiver confessing how she abused her mother here:

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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Nursing Home Patient Leaves Hospice Care

Whenever I speak to groups and mention that one of my patients was released from hospice care, audience members seem surprised. This usually happens when I tell Raynell’s story. Raynell, my diabetic hospice patient with dementia, shared a room with four other patients at the nursing home. Her roommates included an imaginary admirer named Robert, whom she loved like the devil loves holy water. Conversing with Raynell required that I drop to the floor periodically and search for Robert under her bed. This was preceded by her screaming, “Get him! He’s going under the bed!” after he (affectionately?) pinched her tingling diabetic legs. But one day, she surprised me with talk about leaving hospice care and the nursing home:

Excerpt from "Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”

Raynell requested my help by saying, “I was wondering if you could help me find another apartment. I’ve been thinking about looking for a new place to stay, maybe a place closer to where I used to live. This apartment building is too noisy. Just close your eyes and listen to all the talking, buzzers, and everything. People come into my place without even knocking. They just walk right in and go through my closet and drawers. It’s not right. Three ladies even moved in with me when I wasn’t looking. Now, I can’t get them out.”

“Whoa! That’s a surprise! I didn’t know you wanted to leave here. Are you sure moving is the best thing to do while you’re not feeling well?”

“Lately, I’m feeling much better. I need a change. Even Robert had to leave, so you know it’s bad. But I’m very glad about that. He’s gone to live in California. I don’t think he’ll be coming back again.”

“A lot sure has happened since I visited you last week. You never said you wanted to move before or that the other people who live here bothered you so much. All this really shocks me.”

I thought about this interesting conversation a while. It was the first time Raynell ever mentioned moving to an apartment and, even more astonishing, the first time she ever said Robert wasn’t hiding under her bed. Two weeks later, she was released from hospice care because her health really had improved. She moved to another nursing home near her son’s house. I guess Robert knew his time was almost up and decided to leave before he got left.

© Frances Shani Parker

Yes, it’s rare, but patients are released from hospice care. Some die within months of leaving, and some live at home or remain in nursing homes. Consider that with various diseases causing the need for hospice care, it is difficult to predict someone’s death with accuracy. Also, receiving quality healthcare and support from others can improve a patient's health. And when an imaginary admirer named Robert knows it’s time to leave, the patient may be moving in that direction, too.

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

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Where Are All the Men (Hospice-Palliative Volunteers)?

When hospice-palliative volunteers look around the room during a typical meeting, it becomes obvious that women volunteer at a higher rate. This is not to say there aren’t great male volunteers, but more diversity in this area would be beneficial. Volunteers are motivated for various reasons such as serving and socializing with patients, pursuing career goals, and feeling good about themselves. But, if the rewards are so wonderful, why aren't more men joining? Fortunately, research reported in the “American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine®” sheds light on this phenomenon with an emphasis on middle-aged and older men:

1) After 68 men read a brief description of the kinds of activities that hospice-palliative care volunteers do, 20% expressed an interest in this type of volunteerism. Those who were not interested stated such reasons as "being too busy" and "not being able to handle it emotionally." One third of the men who said they were not interested in becoming volunteers did express an interest in 10 of 13 other common volunteer activities such as driving.

2) After 59 men were presented with a list of 25 volunteer tasks from which they could choose, the men were least willing to serve on the board of directors (28%), provide hands-on patient care (38%), and work in the volunteer program's office (42%).

Men were most willing to talk to patients (97%), share hobbies and interests with patients (92%), listen to patients’ memories and life stories (90%), and provide friendship and companionship (88%).

These are the facts straight from men themselves. Hopefully, this information makes preferences of many potential male volunteers clearer. Volunteer coordinators can consider these male motivations as part of their recruitment strategies leading to more diversity.

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