Sunday, April 25, 2010

Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) of Children and Adults (Video 2:23 mins.)

Wow! I saw a light!

With a focus on hospice, nursing homes, and seniors, I don’t get to post a child’s picture on this blog often. But today’s topic shares death-related concerns about children and adults. Like adults, children can also become critically ill and near death. Their near-death experiences (NDEs) are nearly identical to those of many adults. When they return to living, both children and adults perceive themselves as changed.

For nearly two decades, pediatrician Melvin Morse has been documenting near-death experiences of critically ill children. He says these children have perceptions that the light they saw during the NDE will be with them always. When they return from the brink of death, their understanding of life and death is unique.

Of course, discussions about near-death experiences inevitably bring up the possibility of immortality. Many people believe in life after death. For them, death is a comma, a pause proceeded by a dash into another dimension of life. Others say that life, as we know it while living, is all there is to existence. They consider death to be a period at the end of the final sentence in their life stories. Of course, a lot of people say they don’t know what to believe.

Scientific research on near-death experiences and other death-related phenomena continues to accumulate data to shed new light on discussions about life after death. Ultimately, people have to decide for themselves what they want to believe.

This video showcases the fascinating near-death experiences of young children who were critically ill. Several of their drawings and writings are explained.

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.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Green House Living: Not Your Traditional Nursing Home (Video 4:25 mins.)

A Green House is an example of culture change in long-term care living. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides grant funding for the Green House model on a national level. Green Houses are self-contained dwellings of seven to ten residents who thrive as families in homes built to blend in with the neighborhood. Residents add their personal decorating touches, greet the day when they feel like it, plan menus, and eat with the staff. Mealtimes prepared in an open kitchen are unhurried and socially rewarding. Each elder has a private room and bath with easy access to all areas of the home.

At Green Houses, skilled nursing assistants (CNA’s), referred to as “shahbazes,” coordinate all facets of eldercare life with the support of nurses and therapists. They focus on nurturing, sustaining, and protecting residents. Residents are encouraged to be independent. This video titled “Green House: A Place to Call Home” showcases advantages of Green House living.

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hospice, Nursing Home, and Terminal Illness Myths

Hospice and Nursing Home Myths
by Frances Shani Parker, Author
“Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
      1.  Myth: Death is a terrible thing.

Fact: Death is a natural part of life that everyone will experience. Accept, discuss, and prepare for becoming dead in your future.

  1. Myth: It’s always better to die at home.
Fact: “Home” can be the presence of love and comfort wherever a terminally ill patient may be. Most people die in institutions.

  1. Myth: Hospice speeds up death.
Fact: If two similar people had the same terminal illness, the one receiving hospice care would probably live longer.

4.   Myth: Pain is a natural part of aging and dying. Under-treated pain slows down the death process.

Fact: Pain medication is available to offer appropriate relief to patients. Under-treated pain worsens the process unnecessarily.

5.   Myth: Patients with dementia don’t miss visits from relatives and friends they don’t recognize.

Fact: Patients with dementia are often aware of their surroundings on some level. Loved ones should focus on patients’ abilities and make every effort to spend quality time with them.

      6.  Myth: Patients with dementia are always suffering.

Fact: Patients with dementia have varied days like everyone else. Happy memories and enriching activities can slow dance into their realities and fill them with joy.

       7.  Myth: Caregivers must only focus on their patients.

Fact: Caregivers must focus on their own care as well. They should seek supportive resources and monitor their sleep habits, irritability, and general health, always with a willingness to seek help when needed.

8.   Myth: Caregivers should not question decisions of healthcare professionals who are the experts.

Fact: Caregivers should be proactive as patient advocates. They should stay informed about patients’ symptoms, diseases, treatment purposes, and side effects.

9.   Myth: Nursing homes are not good places for children to visit.

Fact: Intergenerational experiences help children understand life’s passages. Children should experience opportunities that encourage them to become nurturing people, eliminate ageism stereotypes, and expose them to possible career choices.

10.  Myth: Hospice work is mostly depressing.

Fact: Millions of hospice workers view their involvement with patients as privileged occasions for mutual growth and fulfillment.

            © Frances Shani Parker

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Depression, Suicide in the Elderly (Video 2:52 mins.)

Discussions about suicide usually don’t focus on the elderly, even though their rates of suicide are proportionately high. Depression, which is too often ignored and considered part of aging, often accompanies suicidal tendencies. The following are symptoms of depression which may be helped through diagnosis ruling out medications, counseling, and drug therapy:

1)   Persistent Sadness
2)   Feelings of Worthlessness
3)   Tearfulness
4)   Pacing and Fidgeting
5)   Excessive Worry

A study at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee focused on risk factors for elderly suicide. An analysis in Caucasians found that “compared to married individuals, those widowed, divorced, or never married had a 2.5 to nearly 5-fold increase in risk of suicide death. Males aged 65-74 had almost a 7-fold increased risk compared to females of that age, and the risk increased for males as they aged, compared to females 65-74 years old.” Being single, male, and a male advancing in age are suicide risk factors. The most common method of suicide was firearm use (66.9%).

Knowing risk factors for elderly suicide can assist healthcare workers, caregivers, and others in recognizing early signs and providing approporiate intervention. You can read more here about the Wisconsin research.

This "NBC New York Nightly News" video titled Segment on Elderly Depression”  highlights the relationship between elderly depression and suicide.

Frances Shani Parker, Author