Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hospice-Palliative Care Volunteers: Why Families Like Them (Research, Video)

You’re a hospice-palliative care volunteer. You were drawn to serve patients and their families during  journeys of terminal illness. You do your best, always hoping you have fulfilled their needs. Best of all, many seem to appreciate your being a part of their lives.

What is it about hospice-palliative care volunteers that makes them appealing to families? Researchers at Mount Allison University in Canada asked this same question and went straight to family members for answers. A survey of 22 family members whose deceased loved ones had used the services of a hospice-palliative care volunteer reported these results in order of importance:
1)   Opportunity to take a much-needed break from the demands of caring for their loved one
2)   Emotional support
3)   Shared time with the volunteer
4)   Information provided by the volunteer
Family members were satisfied with volunteers and rated them highly. The majority of families (85%) rated their volunteers as well trained. In addition, family members (95%) did not feel that volunteers had invaded their privacy or patients’ privacy. Sounds like lots of volunteers are successful at fulfilling many patient and family needs through service. This video poem expresses the win-win experiences of many hospice-palliative care volunteers:

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cremation Process and Storage of Cremains (Video 2:32)

We’re all going to die. That is a fact. Everyone should make plans regarding disposal of their bodies after death. Instead of being buried in a cemetery, increasing numbers of people are choosing cremations, in which intense heat and flames reduce bodies to bone fragments in less than two hours.

Not only are cremations selected because they are less expensive than traditional burials, some prefer them for the ease in spreading the ashes later and the convenience in incorporating cremated remains or cremains, as they are called, into death rituals. Sometimes families are allowed to be present at cremations and incorporate religious practices. Most religions accept cremations and permit the cremains at memorial services.

Cremains are often stored by families who keep them in urns that vary in their uniqueness. These may include such containers as vases with pedestals or even personalized teddy bears with hidden pouches. Among other uses, cremains of loved ones are being used in jewelry, shotgun shells, and fireworks. In terms of other destinations, cremains can be stored in a cemetery plot, mausoleum, or scattered in a garden or a body of water. For $5,300 cremains can be sent aloft into outer space, while $13,000 can send them into luna orbit. With so many choices available, everyone should make plans regarding disposal of their bodies. What will happen to your body after death?

In this video, funeral director Elisa Krcilek explains the cremation process.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Massage for Caregivers of Terminally Ill Patients (Research, Video 3:35 mins.)

Many say that what caregivers need most is caregiving. Relatives caring for the terminally ill at home are particularly in need of support to improve their own quality of life. One form of nurturing for caregivers that reduces their levels of stress is soft tissue massage (hand or foot). This strategy has demonstrated beneficial results for caregiving relatives of patients receiving palliative home care.

In research reported in the “Journal of Clinical Nursing,” nineteen relatives received soft tissue massage nine times (25 minutes) in their homes. After all the sessions were completed, relatives participated in a tape-recorded interview about their massage experiences. They reported that the soft-tissue massages gave them feelings of being cared for, body vitality, and peace of mind. For a while, they experienced the freedom of being worry-free.

These positive results from having massages were experienced by all participants. Soft tissue massages can play an important role in palliative care by providing supplementary benefits in supporting caring relatives.

This video titled “Hand Massage Lesson by Health-Choices Massage School” demonstrates how a hand massage is done.

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Young Nursing Home Residents: Person-Centered Culture Change Must Include Them

As quiet as it’s kept, young residents are often found in nursing homes. They are a growing population that many overlook when they think of nursing homes as “old people’s homes.” In many ways, traditional nursing homes are not designed with needs of young residents in mind.

The first young resident I came to know while I was hospice volunteering was a young woman named Velma. She appeared to be in her early twenties. She was often stationed in her wheelchair in the hall near the elevator. She was not my patient, but, as a volunteer in nursing homes, I came in contact with many people. Velma was mentally impaired and did not speak in sentences. But she was quite good at waving and laughing loudly when I showed her attention on the way to my patient’s room. We had a little game where, pretending not to notice her when I was leaving, I would get on the elevator and then peep back at her and wave before the doors closed. She thought this was hilarious, and she watched me closely whenever I headed in that direction.

Another young resident was one of several roommates who shared a room with my patient. Many of my hospice patients had multiple roommates. Imagine dying while living on a daily basis in a room with three other people with various illnesses, including dementia. Warren, who seemed to be in his early thirties, roamed freely around the nursing home. While he also did not speak in sentences, his grunting sounds were perfect. He had a habit of running up behind me in the hall, covering my eyes with his hands, and grunting loudly, “Who? Who?” Of course, nobody else I knew did that to me, including elementary and middle school students at my school where I was principal. I always guessed he was the “mystery” person. Then we would both fall out laughing as if each time were the first. Thinking about this ongoing scenario still makes me have a rainbow smile.

But there was a sadness about these young people and some others I have seen in nursing homes. These residents, particularly those severely challenged, didn’t appear to have much scheduled to enrich them creatively other than watching television and observing what was going on around them. Sure, there were overlapping activities in which all ages could participate. But ages twenty through one hundred have unique requirements. Young people often craved attention and clearly needed more engaging activities focused on their age groups. Their needs must be addressed if nursing homes are to become person-centered in providing quality of life for all residents.

Frances Shani Parker, Author