Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nursing Home Smoking: A Hospice Volunteer’s View (Video 1:16 mins.)

According to MI law relating to nursing homes, smoking is either not allowed or restricted to certain areas of nursing homes. This whole idea of smoking in “restricted” areas reminds me of a restaurant I visited where smokers and non-smokers were separated by five feet of aisle space down the center of a small room. I could actually see a cloud of smoke hanging over the non-smoking section. Where was the “restricted” area?

A nursing home is a healthcare institution. Considering the fragile mental and physical conditions of many residents, I question the safety of some of the restricted areas. Several of my hospice patients who smoked had oxygen tanks stationed near their beds. As if the fire hazard of smoking is not enough, the issue of healthcare should certainly be more of a priority.

All the nursing homes where I volunteered had indoor smoking areas to accommodate patients and staff who wanted to smoke. I held my breath to avoid second-hand smoke every time I briefly entered a smoking room to get a chair when they were not available in the halls. Smoke, which was both seen and smelled, floated into the halls every time the doors to smoking rooms opened. Whether they smoked or not, everybody’s nostrils were assaulted with sucker punches of first or second-hand smoke.

In this video, an elderly woman who uses an oxygen tank sparked a fire at an apartment complex for the elderly. While she was not in a nursing home smoking area, the resulting fire and crisis in having to protect, console, and evacuate all the other residents to buses taking them to a shelter could easily have happened at a nursing home.

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

Friday, February 20, 2009

BlogTalkRadio Interview with Frances Shani Parker, Author of “Becoming Dead Right” (30 mins.)

Earlier this week, I was interviewed by Patricia Grace, a certified senior advisor and host of the BlogTalkRadio Show “Aging with Grace.” This show airs weekly on Monday evenings in Pennsylvania and showcases discussions related to eldercare. BlogTalkRadio is the social radio network that allows users to connect quickly and directly with their audiences. Using an ordinary telephone and computer, hosts can create free, live, call-in talk shows.

Patricia Grace and I covered several topics during our interview. They included the following:

1) Hospice Care
2) Caregiving
3) School-Nursing Home Partnerships
4) Healthcare Research
5) Culture Change in Nursing Homes
6) Ten Tips for Becoming Dead Right

You can listen to the "Aging with Grace" interview here.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Caregiving with Sensitivity: Semi-Sensory Deprivation and The Virtual Dementia Tour (Video 3:04 mins.)

I have been a big fan of semi-sensory deprivation training for some time. For example, lack of eye care for nursing home residents is widespread in America and greatly impacts these residents’ quality of life. It’s only logical that if volunteer participants could wear glasses or goggles that have lenses smeared, so their vision is blurry, they can arrive at a better understanding of what patients with impaired vision experience. Simulations impairing speech, smell, taste, hearing, walking, talking, eating, touching, etc. help others really experience what patients are going through on a daily basis, and they provide great discussion. Nursing homes, hospitals, and medical schools are supportive of providing these experiences.

Because family members care for most patients with dementia, it is important that family caregivers develop more sensitivity to patients’ experiences. One example of training to improve their sensitivity is The Virtual Dementia Tour. This training developed by P.K. Beville for Second Wind Dreams “helps sensitize families to the needs of their loved ones” by helping them see, feel, and hear in ways similar to the experiences of an elderly person with dementia. Second Wind Dreams® is a national non-profit organization based in metro Atlanta.

In this video about the Virtual Dementia Tour, participants perform everyday tasks such as matching socks while wearing the following:

1) Dried corn in their shoes to simulate arthritis
2) Gloves with taped fingers to simulate declining age
3) Goggles to simulate impaired vision
4) Headphones to simulate background noise distractions that interfere with patients’ focus

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

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hospice and Nursing Home Poem: Volunteer-Patient African American History

My book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes concludes each chapter with an original poem. I was inspired to write this poem while watching my hospice patient sleep. I thought about our common history that bridged our communication beyond her dementia and enhanced my respect for all she represented.

Deeper Than Words

The outside world arrives
wearing my willing face.
Toothless, your smile widens
like a baby’s hungry for attention.
Almost ninety-eight years old,
your inner candle still glows.

A hospice volunteer, I lean closer,
talk into your listening left ear,
“Today is Sunday, Miss Loretta.”
My news drifts away like smoke.
You stare at me through dying coals.
Whatever I ask, you whisper, “Yes.”

I stroke your age-softened arms
while your hazed mind masters sleep.
Watching you, I dream generations
of women, black and strong, each one
a book of sustaining stories
about joy, pain, courage, survival.

Within your warm brown frame,
spirits from our common history linger.
Aides say you have dementia,
that you don’t know a word I say.
Our language goes deeper than words.
We speak to each other’s souls.

© Frances Shani Parker

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.