Saturday, August 28, 2010

Home Funerals: An Introduction (Video 4:17)

Many years ago, death rituals in America were a continuation of the family’s natural involvement with the deceased at home. Even today, some people view them as extensions of the hospice philosophy. After a death took place, the body of the deceased was prepared at home for viewing. Mourners came to pay their respects, console the family, and offer other forms of assistance. The family appreciated this outpouring of support from the community. After the funeral, the body was buried.

Involvement with death-ritual arrangements was and still is therapeutic. In addition to saving thousands of dollars, some families want to have more control over how the deceased loved one’s life is celebrated and cared for after death. Having a personalized home funeral is an option they embrace. Most states allow home funerals as long as legal documentation related to claiming the body and arrangements for burial or cremation are handled appropriately. Some families work with funeral homes on these matters.

This video titled “Home Funerals” is an introduction to this dignified death ritual, another alternative for family and friends to unfasten their earthly connections with loved ones who die. Comments are especially welcome from those who have participated in home funerals.

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Alzheimer’s Dementia Hospice Story: Coping With Grief

“She’ll rise out of her grave…”

This true story about a conversation with my hospice patient is one of many in my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes.

When Mamie Wilson became my hospice patient, she had several unusual qualities that made me wonder. At sixty-five with Alzheimer’s dementia, she was the youngest patient assigned to me after years of hospice volunteering. She had the same name as my grandmother, and I had her grandmother's name. When we made these discoveries during our first meeting, we took them as signs that we were destined to have a great patient-volunteer relationship. In time, I learned that the most unusual thing about Mamie was what she said.

“Is your mother alive?” Mamie asked me one day.

“No, she died a few years ago in her eighties,” I responded.

“You know, you can still be with her and talk to her if you want to.”

“Oh, I know we can still communicate.”

“No, I mean for real. You can be with her in person. Just get her clothes together and her shoes. Don’t forget her coat. They say it’s cold outside. Take them to the cemetery where she’s buried. Just set them on top of her grave and wait. She’ll rise out of her grave and put them on. Then you can take her home with you. In every way, she’ll be the same person you knew. Other people won’t be able to see her, but you will.”

“Hmm. I’ve never heard that before.”

“Most people haven’t. I know about it because I did it with my two grown sons. They were both murdered on the same day in a drive-by shooting. I didn’t know how I would get through the pain. Finally, I took their clothes to the cemetery and did what I just told you. Both of them came home with me. It was the best day of my life. I got my sons back.” Satisfied, she smiled.

Some people will dismiss this story as crazed comments of a demented woman. But, if you really listen, you’ll hear the magnificent empowerment in her words.

© Frances Shani Parker

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and several other countries at online and offline booksellers.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Help for Children Who Are Caregivers (Video 5:34)

Imagine being one of hundreds of thousands of children, some as young as eight, who must serve as a major caregiver to an adult on a daily basis. This is the reality of many school children, particularly in racial-ethnic minority communities and among low to mid-income families.

As a former school principal, it was not unusual for me to have students in elementary through high school grades with attendance problems due to caregiving responsibilities at homes when no one else was available to help. These children’s responsibilities included medicating, dressing, feeding, bathing, and more. The emotional stress of child caregivers can be even more harmful to them than the physical burdens. Unfortunately, as the economy struggles and the ranks of baby boomers expand, increasing numbers of children are being assigned caregiving responsibilities.

More people are recognizing this problem, and for some children, but not nearly enough, help is being provided. The Caregiving Youth Project sponsored by the American Association of Caregiving Youth provides in-school assistance and a caregiver camp for children who are caregivers. This gives them an opportunity to receive guidance, support, and social interaction with other children who can understand what they are going through as they manage adult responsibilities. This "New York Times" video shadows the lives of three children who are caregivers and highlights this national program that assists them.

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hospice-Palliative Care Doctors and Burnout (Research, Video 5:48)

Every profession has the potential for burnout, even when workers love what they do. With the growth in hospice-palliative medicine (HPM), more research is shining a light on how doctors in this field prevent burnout and promote self-care among themselves.

This research by the Mayo Clinic was reported in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Participants included 40 HPM doctors practicing in America. These doctors were surveyed online about burnout prevention strategies and ways to find fulfillment in their professions. These were strategies used by 30 of 40 HPM physicians (19 males, 11 females) for burnout prevention:

1)    Physical well-being (60%)
2)    Professional relationships (57%)
3)    Transcendental perspectives (43%)
4)    Oral communication with others (43%)
5)    Hobbies (40%)
6)    Clinical variety (37%)
7)    Personal relationships (37%)
8)    Personal boundaries (37%)
9)    Time away from work (27%)
10)  Passion for one's work (20%)
11)  Realistic expectations (13%)
12)  Humor and laughter (13%)
13)  Memories of patients (10%)

HPM doctors use a variety of strategies to avoid burnout and maintain resilience. This research highlights the importance of dealing with burnout as it relates to doctors’ self-awareness and self-care. More research is needed to help physicians recognize burnout and individualized strategies for supporting themselves and their colleagues. This video titled “Palliative Curriculum - Part 15 - Cancer Doctors and Burnout” presents a scenario about burnout concerns.

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.