Monday, June 28, 2010

Person-Centered Bathing: Long-Term Care Culture Change (Research)

Do you remember how special bath time was when you were a child? Did you have toys floating on the waves of your rolling sea? Were there bubbles sometimes adding magic to the experience of getting fresh and clean? Maybe you still have certain rituals like music, fragrance, and candlelight that take bathing to another level when you want to pamper yourself. These simple treasures can add so much to uplifting spirits. While bathing may seem like a universal activity, individual preferences add personal joy. Shouldn’t nursing homes be sensitive to residents’ personal preferences when they can be implemented?

A research study by the Yale School of Medicine examined the bathing experiences, attitudes, and preferences of older persons through in-depth interviews. Three themes emerged:
1) The importance and personal significance of bathing to older persons
2) Variability in attitudes, preferences, and sources of bathing assistance
3) Older persons' anticipation of and responses to bathing disability
Clearly, their attitudes and preferences are important when person-centered interventions for bathroom design are considered.
My book "Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes” has a chapter titled “Baby Boomer Haven,” which takes readers on a tour of an imaginary nursing home that incorporates best practices currently being used in nursing homes today, but not nearly enough. Of course, innovative bathing systems meeting residents’ needs continue to be invented. The tour is led by a resident in a wheelchair. This excerpt from the tour addresses bathrooms:
“This might be a little unusual, but I just have to show you one of our bathrooms. Using the bathrooms is a pleasant experience here. We have choices about whether we want a shower, a bath, or a sponge bath, and when we choose to take them. The Jacuzzi tubs and music are great motivators to come here. Deodorizers keep our bathrooms smelling fresh at all times. Notice the bright artwork that colors the walls and even the ceilings, so we can admire beauty when we are in reclining positions. We can soak in beauty everywhere we look. These simple touches tell us that somebody thought we were worth the effort.”

Isn’t that what quality of life is all about?

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Monday, June 21, 2010

Medical Student Training: Hospice Patients and Staff (Research)

I was sitting on a hospital examining table while contemplating when I could get dressed and escape. That’s when a doctor walked in with ten medical students in tow, all eager to hear about this new exhibit—me.  A former school principal, I totally support minds being terrible things to waste and nobody being left behind. But having a group of strangers walk in unannounced under these circumstances was uncomfortable. And I wasn’t even a hospice patient.

How do hospice patients feel about being participants in the training of medical students? Is it annoying being scrutinized by groups of students while patients struggle with their own health issues? What about the healthcare staff? Do they welcome opportunities to participate in educating others through patient contact, or do they view these experiences as inconvenient for them and intrusive to the terminally ill?

Hospice patients and staff were interviewed regarding their views on involvement in the training of medical students. The research results indicate that hospice patients are “strongly positive” about meeting medical students. Staff members carefully select patients based on specific issues. When done appropriately, training medical students with hospice patients and staff can be a win-win experience for everyone. 

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Television Viewing in Long-Term Care (Research)

"I Love Lucy” Television Show

My grandmother loved watching the soaps on television. Home alone during the day, she laughed, cried, and wrung her hands with worry over strangers who took over her living room daily. But they weren't strangers to her. Like Lucy, she had plenty of explaining to do when I came home.

As a hospice volunteer, I wasn’t surprised at all when I visited nursing homes and saw the important role television played in many senior residents’ lives. Beverly, one of my patients, couldn’t hear very well. She disliked wearing her hearing aid as much as she disliked wearing her false teeth. But that didn’t stop her from eating her peanut butter sandwich crackers while watching television in her room. She listened carefully and tried to make sense of whatever she could. Later, she would ask me to unravel her confusion about a world that was nothing like she remembered. Even the weather was different. And why didn’t Oprah and Stedman just get married?

Some people have negative opinions about residents watching television in long-term care facilities. They think it makes them passive and less healthy. And they would be correct sometimes. I have certainly seen television used as a poor substitute for planned quality time. But watching television can be a positive experience under appropriate circumstances when it’s not used in excess. Research even supports this.

In a study of two nursing home settings, rural and urban, with residents aged 82 through 100, resident interviews and observations reported these results:
Television viewing contributes to structuring daily life, to satisfying old peoples' needs for reflection and contemplation, and to residents’ remaining socially integrated. (That certainly worked for my grandmother.)

Nursing home residents are often curious and eager to know about what is going on outside the nursing home world, even when they don’t agree with what they discover. In fact, disagreement can add to lively social discussions. Watching television and learning new information helps residents stay engaged with others and contributes to their wells of communication. Hmm, sounds like the same positive impact good television can have on people in general.

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Curative Medical Care vs. Non-Curative Hospice Care: Two Men in Love with the Same Woman

Curative medical care and non-curative hospice care are like two men in love with the same woman. The curative man, who has enjoyed many wonderful years with her, is reluctant to let her go. But their joy together has declined with time. While she appreciates the fulfillment they shared in the past, she now feels a lack of commitment to him and an urgency to move on with her life. The hospice man, the new love in her life, fills the void she is experiencing and brings an essential enhancement to her well being. He longs to stay with her because their relationship has reached a mutually meaningful level. The woman he loves embraces the happiness his hospice presence brings.

Unfortunately, many experience this love triangle in varied ways. Patients may resist the prediction of death within months and the prospect of involving outsiders as caregivers. Some doctors and caregivers may be reluctant to admit that a patient cannot be saved. Medical staff focused on curing all patients may not totally commit to the hospice philosophy of non-curative care when working with hospice patients.

Love triangles like this that exist in nursing homes and other institutions must be resolved with focus on the best interests of patients. In order to improve treatment of the terminally ill, institutions that have hospice programs must be dedicated to promoting staff expertise in hospice practices. This commitment must include clear administrative support with ongoing education and monitoring of staff practices. This will ensure that hospice patients receive services appropriate to their non-curative condition. 

What’s love got to do with it? Everything. In some institutions where these positive partnerships have been implemented, hospice practices such as better pain management have naturally become part of the care given to terminally ill patients who are not in hospice programs. True love can be contagious like that.

Can two men be in love with the same woman? Sure, if they respect each other’s boundaries, strive for a healthy relationship including the woman’s needs, and understand that, when lovers lose their mutual joy and loyalty, moving on can be love’s greatest expression.

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stereotypes About the Elderly and Effects (Research and Video 2:27 mins.)

Like many of you, I belong to several social media networks. However, there is one I seldom use, due to the immaturity I have encountered there, particularly regarding the elderly. Below is a brief summary discussion on a life-threatening topic that I initiated there about seniors and the prevention of HIV/AIDS:

“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one-quarter of the one million HIV-positive people in the U.S. are older than age 50. Half are expected to be older than 50 by 2015. People tend not to think of HIV/AIDS as an illness of senior citizens, but it is. Seniors must be committed to not taking sexual risks.”

I received over a dozen responses, some too vulgar to print here, from various people, along with degrading, so-called funny photos of old people. None took this matter seriously. These are a few examples:

1) “You just made me throw-up in my mouth a little.”


3) “What's considered a sexual risk for an old person? Not wearing a   diaper?”

4) “Sex also puts them at risk for hip fractures. That would seriously suck. A hip fracture and aids. Double whammy.”

5) “How about old people just stop having sex?”

So much for intelligent discussion. I am open to constructive, controversial debate, but that group “discussion” took blatant prejudice to another level. Truthfully, it is yet another example of negative stereotypes embedded in our society about the elderly. They are all over the media.

These and other stereotypes affect those who are victimized by them, and impact the elderly in detrimental ways. Research reported in Aging & Mental Health explains that negative aging stereotypes impact how the elderly see themselves and how they function. They become more dependent on others, have lower levels of risk taking, subjective health and extraversion, and higher feelings of loneliness. These are concerns we should keep in mind as we continue to advocate for eldercare improvements.

In this video titled “See the Person, Not the Age,” a young actress transforms herself into a senior and compares people’s reactions toward her. This experiment is part of the Scottish government campaign against ageism, an international problem.

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.