Saturday, July 31, 2010

Healthcare Urban Legends Test-- Nursing Homes, Health, Senior Citizens

If you have opened forwarded e-mails or “chain letters,” you’ve probably read false information that you thought was true. Believing what you read may have caused you to panic. Wanting to help others, you couldn’t wait to forward the warning, protection prayer, or request for a donation to family and friends. But there’s a more constructive way to deal with this phenomenon. Today’s post offers a brief mental workout to help keep you informed about nursing homes, health issues, and seniors while squashing rumors.

Can you guess which of the following health-related stories are true or false? The correct answers are at the end.

1) While being transported from a nursing home to a doctor’s office for an appointment, an elderly patient died when the gurney to which he was strapped rolled away with him, overturned, and caused a head injury.

2) The artificial sweetener aspartame has been proved responsible for an epidemic of cancer, brain tumors, and multiple sclerosis. This story gives a detailed description of the health dangers of diet drinks.

3) Some senior citizens are choosing to live their retirement years on cruise ships where the amenities are much better and the average costs per day are cheaper than living in nursing homes.

Fortunately, there is a website that can help you decipher what’s true and what isn’t. Many of you are probably aware of, which has been around for years. This website is the Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation. If you haven’t already, you might want to bookmark this site and check out information you receive. You can delete the hoaxes and end the spreading of false information. 

Answers:     1. True    2. False     3. True

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Can Older Adults With Dementia Enjoy Life? (Research, Arts Video 3:04 mins.)

I have a friend whose mother has Alzheimer's disease. He and his father are her primary caregivers at home. He says that people generally feel sorry for them. When his mother’s name comes up in conversations, the tone changes to one of sadness. They also assume that his mother must be an unhappy person because of her mentally impaired condition. The other day, I smiled at his response when I asked him how she was doing. He said, “Mama is doing just fine. Pops and I focus on keeping her healthy and active. Most of the time, she is as happy as she can be.”

A research study in the “International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry” supports that assessment. Consisting of interviews with 1,620 community-dwelling older adults, the study examined the following:
1) Overall life satisfaction with material circumstances and with social circumstances of older adults with no cognitive impairment, with cognitive impairment without dementia, and with dementia
2) The effect of cognition on life satisfaction across a broad spectrum of cognition
3) The effect of factors such as depressive symptoms, functional impairment, education, and social support.
While participants with dementia and participants with cognitive impairment without dementia did have lower life satisfaction than those with normal cognition, the effects were relatively small. The study concluded that, although cognition is associated with life satisfaction, older adults are generally satisfied with life.

Older adults with dementia have varied days like everyone else. Happy memories and enriching activities can slow dance into their realities and fill them with joy. This video titled “I Remember Better When I Paint: Treating Alzheimer’s Through Creative Arts” shows how creative arts activities can enhance the quality of their lives. A longer DVD version can be purchased at,,, and

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hospice Volunteers Share Experiences (Hospice Poem, Video 3:25)

Each hospice volunteer has a unique story to tell.  This is my story poem about my hospice volunteer experiences in Detroit nursing homes:

Reflections of a Hospice Volunteer
By Frances Shani Parker 

I leave my car and walk into a world with many fates.
The people live reality where three words dominate:
“Nostalgia” brings memories that make them question why.
“Delusions” create fantasies that often come alive.
“Anticipation” beckons the beginning of each day.
A visit, party, special newswhat is on the way?

Sedonia tells me stories of how life used to be.
Many things seem different now. She’s almost ninety-three.
Moochie shields unseen friends he pledges to protect.
I wonder if he sees and hears the friends he manifests.

Dexter smiles and says with pride while waiting for his son,
“All my children visit me, and each is Number One.”
Pearl yells, “I want some cake, and bring it just for me!”
She thinks that I’m employed here. She sees me every week.

An empty bed reminds me that someone else has gone.
Next week I’ll see someone new. Life’s cycle will go on.
Juan trails me through each room while planning his escape.
“I have somewhere to go,” he pleads. I stop him at the gate.

I leave this special world today with wisdom strong and rare,
Respecting every circumstance that brought each person there.
Our futures are unknown to us like roads with endless curves.
I drive away feeling good, happy that I served.

© Frances Shani Parker
Excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes

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

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Intergenerational Partnerships Change Negative Stereotypes About Older Adults (Research)

Frances Shani Parker accepts flowers from Yvonne Butler-Woods at the Revelation Lutheran Church Senior Celebration. Keynote speaker, Ms. Parker spoke about intergenerational partnerships and the impact of negative stereotypes about older adults on children.
(Note: This is not her speech.)                                 
A former school principal, I encourage intergenerational experiences between students and older adults. I feel so strongly about them that I include a chapter on school-nursing home partnerships in my book "Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”

At my school, we had students complete pre and post surveys as part of their nursing home visits. We asked them what their expectations were about nursing homes and the residents who lived there. Fourth graders told us they thought residents would be boring, slow, and nosy, trying to get into their "business." These were only a few of the negative stereotypes they had already developed about older adults. Students also participated in several classes on aging and eldercare before their visits. They learned how to perform, analyze, record, and disseminate scientific research. The lessons we created were integrated into the regular school curriculum supporting academic standards. This teaching approach is called service-learning.

Of course, students were amazed at how their opinions changed when they took the same surveys after returning to school from their visits. In addition, they witnessed dementia firsthand and developed a healthier understanding of aging, illness, caregiving, and acceptance of others' differences.

A research summary reported in “Medical News Today,” Source: Jamie Hanlon, confirms that negative stereotypes about the elderly can be present in children as young as three. The study reported that children with fewer contacts with seniors had more negative stereotypes about them. While children also learn negative stereotypes from the media and from observing how others treat seniors, they can learn many positive lessons about older adults through their early personal interactions with them.

The negative biases children embrace can impact them through the years in ways that are damaging in how they treat older adults, perceive themselves, and in how they perceive aging. Perhaps you have noticed some young people exhibit a strong lack of tolerance or empathy for seniors. I certainly have. Unfortunately, these youngsters may grow up to become the negative stereotypes they believe. Positive intergenerational experiences involving young people and older adults are wonderful win-win opportunities. 

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Palliative Care or Supportive Care? Which Would You Prefer? (Research, Video 3:04)

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

I have met quite a few people who don’t have a clue as to what palliative care is. Some are even in the healthcare profession. To add to the confusion, many who do know what it is refer to palliative care using various pronunciations (sound pronunciation). Then there are those healthcare organizations such as the American cancer centers that have adopted use of the name palliative care but continue to get referrals late for those needing it. Is this due to an association of the name palliative care with hospice care?  Would all these problems regarding the name palliative care be resolved by just replacing the name with a more user friendly one such as supportive care?

Obviously, the name palliative care carries several barriers that need to be explored. That’s why this research caught my interest. This study by the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas reports how the name palliative care versus the name supportive care may impact cancer patient referrals.

Can a name be a barrier to patient referrals for care? Medical oncologists and their midlevel providers (advance practice nurses and physician assistants) at a comprehensive cancer center think so. 140 out of 200 of them participated in a survey to determine the impact of the name palliative care compared with the name supportive care on patient referrals and to determine whether there was an association between demographic factors and the perceptions of the two names. What were the results?

1)    The name palliative care compared with the name supportive care was perceived more frequently by medical oncologists and midlevel providers as a barrier to referrals, decreasing hope, and causing distress in patients and families.

2)    Participants significantly preferred the name supportive care compared with palliative care. They also stated more likelihood to refer patients on active primary and advanced cancer treatments to a service named supportive care.

While these results are not surprising, where does this leave the name palliative care? Is this a matter of educating the public more to the meaning and appreciation of what palliative care can provide? Or is this a matter of phasing out usage of the term palliative care with patients and replacing it with the name supportive care? What do you think?

This video explains palliative care: “Palliative Care: What is it and who is it for?”

Frances Shani Parker, Author