Monday, November 29, 2010

Palliative Care Professionals Change Through Shared Stories (Research, Hospice Video 2:16)

Never underestimate secondhand life experiences. I know how someone else’s story can grab me by the collar, drag me into a clear day on a stormy night. When writing for others, I have wandered through high weeds of words, while seeking a path of truth behind the noise of my thoughts. True stories sometimes come drenched in life-changing powers. I wish more people would tell and listen to stories the way children do with wide-eyed openness for learning. That’s why I am pleased to report this research about palliative care professionals telling true stories about their work.

Reported in the “Journal of Interprofessional Care,” this research consisted of a series of six interprofessional palliative care meetings held in facilitated small groups. The 28 participants, which included doctors, nurses, social workers, and emergency care practitioners shared stories about their professional experiences. Evaluations of the meetings were done via telephone interviews with 19 of the participants reporting. Findings resulting from their shared discussions included this statement:
“Five months after the end of the course, many participants described changed professional behavior which they believed led to improved patient outcomes.”

Now, that was some great storytelling!

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Engage With Grace: Discuss End-of-Life Wishes During Holidays

For three years running now, many of us bloggers have participated in what we call a “blog rally” to promote Engage With Grace, a movement aimed at making sure all of us understand, communicate, and have honored our end-of-life wishes. The rally is timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these unbelievably important conversations – our closest friends and family.

At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get conversations about end-of-life started. We’ve included them at the end of this post. They’re not easy questions, but they are important. Believe it or not, most people find they actually enjoy discussing their answers with loved ones. The key is having these conversations before it’s too late.

This past year has done so much to support our mission to get more and more people talking about their end-of-life wishes. We’ve helped make this a topic of national importance. We commend everyone who has taken this topic so seriously. 

Happy holidays and thank you to all who have done so much to spread the word, including sharing questions from The One Slide below:

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday Coping With Grief: Bereavement Support After a Loved One Dies (Hospice Video 2:27)

Some people dread the holidays. They view them as slices of life that bring painful reminders of losing a loved one. They associate holiday traditions with familiar people and places that are incomplete and no longer fulfilling. These bereavement suggestions offer support for those coping with grief during the holidays:

"Mourners have to decide the best ways they can adjust to the holidays. One option is to create new holiday traditions. If holidays were celebrated as a family, new traditions can be planned as a family, so everyone can have input. This will give family members an opportunity to discuss their feelings about the deceased loved one and possibly include something in the new tradition that commemorates that person in an uplifting manner. This could be a type of memorial that adds pleasure to holidays in the future, something that would have pleased the deceased.

Whether celebrating the holidays alone, with others, or not at all, people should always follow their hearts and do what feels best for them. There is no one way for everyone. There are different ways that work well for different people. Some people who found the holidays stressful, phony, or too commercial before their loved one died may want to redirect their holiday focus. They might choose to participate in an activity that is calmer and more meaningful to them such as volunteering at places where they can help others or sharing with others in another capacity. Others may want to celebrate alone or with a few friends, take a trip to another state or country, or just be involved with something they enjoy doing that may or may not have anything to do with the holidays, but everything to do with their own quality of life."

In this Hospice of the Florida Suncoast video titled “Hospice Care and Grief Counseling: Coping With Holidays After a Loved One's Death,” Sandi Sunter shares more suggestions for coping with holiday grief.

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas and New Year: Death Risk Factors

Back in late August, I noticed a store clerk setting up Halloween decorations. After I commented that Halloween was really coming soon, the clerk casually mentioned that the Christmas decorations were already up on the other side of the shelf. In the sales world, that’s called getting customers in the holiday spirit early, so they’ll spend more money. Decorations may start them thinking about holiday foods, parties, trips, gifts, and death. Did I say death? That’s probably the last thing most people connect with the holidays.

Should people be thinking about holiday deaths, too? Research from the University of California confirms that they should. Using official U.S. death certificates in various hospitals around Christmas and New Year, researchers examined daily mortality rates. Results indicate that mortality from natural causes is highest in dead-on-arrival (DOA) and emergency department (ED) settings on Christmas and New Year. There are more DOA/ED deaths on 12/25, 12/26, and 1/1 than on any other days for each of the top five disease groups. Yes, Christmas and New Year are risk factors for deaths.

Although the research article didn’t explain precautions people should take that might keep them or their loved ones from being part of holiday death statistics, earlier research reported at “WebMD Health News” presented these recommendations from Dr. Alice Jacobs, president of the American Heart Association:

1) Don't skip regular appointments because of the holidays. Reschedule if needed.
2) Stick to your healthy habits through the holidays, and help your family do the same.
3) Be sure you have enough of your usual medications.
4) Check out the medical facilities where you'll be traveling.
5) Ask your doctor to recommend someone you could see if you need a doctor away from home.
6) If you have symptoms, don't ignore them.

It’s not too early to plan ahead for holiday death risk factors. Have safe and happy holidays!

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

Friday, November 5, 2010

Older Adults Make Safe Sex Video (2:22)

You know what’s frightening? Nearly one-third of all people living with HIV/AIDS are aged 50 and older. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 115,000 of the 475,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States are 50+. That’s nearly double the number in 2001. The real numbers are likely higher because many people with HIV/AIDS remain undiagnosed.

Undiagnosed and infected people are estimated to cause two-thirds of infections.  Because many senior women are postmenopausal, they may not use condoms with the vigilance they would for preventing pregnancy. More sexual experimentation among seniors, including some increased by drugs like Viagra, also promote the likelihood of unprotected sex. 

You know what’s great? More seniors and others are paying attention to these statistics. They are understanding that rising rates of HIV/AIDS in their population require diligently using condoms, no sharing of needles, testing for HIV, and discussing HIV/AIDS with their doctors and others. They can make good use of resources available such as the National Institute on Aging.

But so much more can and should be done to get the message out about safe sex for seniors. Like any change, people can begin wherever they are to become part of the solution.

Frances Shani Parker, Author