Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ten Steps to Becoming Dead Right: Hospice Volunteer Perspective

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of hospice volunteering, it’s that death will come when it comes. Dealing with death can be so much easier when it’s approached like any other important life event. By following a workable plan, you can enjoy comforting closure when that ultimate destination is reached. Consider using these ten steps featuring scenic routes on your journey to becoming dead right:

     Ten Steps to Becoming Dead Right

1.  Accept death as part of life.

Death will come no matter how often the topic is avoided or how forcefully technology wrestles it to the ground. 

2.  Listen to the Universe.

Some say it’s the Universe. Many use God, Higher Power or other names. If you believe you are part of an infinite enlightenment, be still and listen.

3.  Expect rainbow smiles.

Rainbow smiles are joyous, healing, memorable moments that come more often when anticipated.

4.  Live a healthy lifestyle.

Practice habits of healthy living in all areas of your life.

5.  Be informed and proactive.

Keep abreast of what’s happening in life. When circumstances arise that can benefit from your input, apply what you know.

6.  Do your best.

You can’t solve every problem or be everything to everybody. Do what you can.

7.  Give service to others.

Complement others by fulfilling needs through service. Both server and recipient benefit from this partnership.

8.  Be grateful for blessings.

Blessings come like wondrous celebrations held in your honor. Let appreciation reign!

9.  Put death wishes in writing.

Fulfillment of your end-of-life wishes will often depend on what you discuss and record now. Get medical, financial, and property decisions in order.

10.  Have a dignified death journey.

Breathe in your final phase of life with contentment. Experience a dying process that brings beauty and calm to your personal letting go.

© Frances Shani Parker
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 and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Older Adult Religion and Spirituality (Research, Hospice Nurse Video 2:51)

Are most religious older adults spiritual? Are the most spiritual ones religious? Topics related to spirituality and religion can get very personal. That’s why many people avoid them. As hospice volunteers, we are advised not to impose our personal religious or spiritual beliefs on patients. Some people have daily spiritual experiences that are a core part of their lives. At the same time, they may have varying levels of praying or attending formal religious services.

When older adults come together and live in a community, they bring all their varied personal religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, including no beliefs and practices. Rush University Medical Center researchers studied the levels of daily spiritual experiences of 6,534 older adults living in biracial communities. These are the reported results of that study:

1)   Most participants had daily spiritual experiences. African Americans and women had more than Whites and men.

2)   Prayer and worship were moderately connected with daily spiritual experiences.

3)   African American race, older age, female gender, better self-rated health, and greater social networks were associated with higher daily spiritual experiences scores. Higher levels of education and depressive symptoms were associated with lower daily spiritual experiences scores.

Overall, these findings are consistent with other research findings on religion and spirituality in the lives of older adults.

As eleven-year-old Jayna Brown demonstrates in this video, many of these spiritual connections begin in childhood. She sings "Take Me to the King" by Tamela Mann:

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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Male Caregiver of Mother: Interview with Frank Gasiorek and Frances Shani Parker

Catherine and Frank Gasiorek

Frank Gasiorek is a man devoted to his terminally ill mother. He belongs to a growing group of 14.5 million men who make up one out of three caregivers in America. Like millions of people carrying personal stories most of us will never know, he told me he was a caregiver only after I happened to mention my involvement with eldercare. From our conversations, I have come to view him as an excellent role model for caregivers in general, especially men. In this interview with me, he shares his caregiving journey:

1)   Frank, how did you become your mother’s primary caregiver?

I began my role as my mother's primary caregiver due to being an only son with siblings living out of state. Also, having a strong bond with a person who was a dedicated single parent and mentor during my early childhood years gave me the desire to give back and return the service.

2)   What concerns do you think are unique to caregiving of a parent by an adult child, especially one of the opposite sex?

Sometimes different interests and backgrounds may be a factor.  However, the realization that I only get one of these, a unique person and mother, is important. As the years passed and more personal care and attention were needed, my mother stated she did not want to live her final years outside of her home. She also did not want outsider care assistance.   

Acceptance of my role as a male caregiver had to be addressed. No longer am I the son. I had to explain to my mother that, when I step in as the caregiver, she needs to respect the care she receives. I am the professional person providing home care. There have been times when she returned from the hospital and then to rehab and back home. I did contract some part-time assistance with homecare nursing for the short term. 

3)   Has your being a male made you less prepared or efficient as a caregiver?

Having worked previously within the healthcare system has exposed me to the assistance that comes with caregiving. In addition, having been rooted in human sensitivity has provided me with a foundation to complement the needs of the healthcare person.

4)   What are some resources that you have found to be especially helpful and that you would recommend for others?

Always consider the local church, community and city services that offer guidance and support. Public and private agencies are easy to research via the Internet.

5)   Do you communicate regularly with other caregivers for support?

Having a network of colleagues associated with caregiving is essential to maintaining balance. A support group with other caregivers creates a bond of positive feedback. Primary physician support staff members are often good individuals for consultations. 

6)   Caregiving can be stressful and socially isolating. Have you experienced this? If so, how do you cope with these challenges?

My network of support helps to keep me balanced when I experience challenges. We allow one another to vent our daily drama of caring for loved ones.

7)   What rewards have you enjoyed as a caregiver?

Spiritually satisfying, caregiving brings the joy of assisting another person for the common good.  Keeping a person exposed to dignity and love is uplifting to the spirit.

8)   What advice would you give to other caregivers now that you understand what this responsibility entails?

Beware. Caregiving is not for everyone. Caregiving is not easy.  Caregiving takes planning and involves orchestrating many daily human needs of an individual. Always maintain space between caregiving assignments and appointments to recharge.

9)   How can those who are not caregivers support those who are?

Financial support would seem to be the easy answer. Nonetheless, periodic backup team members who are not caregivers can greatly assist primary caregivers. For example, team members can provide helpful phone calls to caregivers and homebound individuals.
   10)  Do you have any final words?

Caregiving is a rewarding experience that is not for everyone. As our mature population continues to live longer and more independently, there is an increasing need for caregiving at different levels. Respect for life must be admired, honored and planned for to create quality life.

Frank, thank you for sharing your caregiving journey. Your firsthand knowledge will be beneficial to caregivers, patients and many others involved in improving quality of life for those in need of caregiving assistance.


Synopsis of Catherine Louise Palmer-Gasiorek  

April 22, 1930 - June 16, 2012

Born to Lenard and Emily (Eby) Palmer on April 22, 1930 in Monroe, Michigan on 10th Street, Catherine was the fifth of nine children, five sisters and three brothers. She was baptized in Monroe at Saint Michael's Church on Front Street where she attended grade school through second grade.  However, the economic downturn of the 1930's developed change for the family, and they eventually moved to a farm in Carleton on O’Hara Road near Saint Patrick's Church. There she continued school and the sacraments of communion and confirmation. When she was thirteen years old, she met Detroiter Rose Radajewski who was part of a family produce business expanding market share to supply Eastern Market with products.   

It was at that time she met Frank A. Gasiorek, then eighteen and another Detroiter, who was employed to assist with the produce service. Both Catherine and Frank developed a close friendship over several years. However, the war years took him away to the Pacific Campaign at Saipan, Nagasaki and other area islands. He returned at the age of twenty-two when Catherine was seventeen, and they were engaged in Detroit at Rouge Park just off Warren Avenue and Outer Drive where Frank once caddied for golfers. Shortly after, they were married on November 8, 1947 with Frank embracing her community and home and Catherine complementing him by embracing his culture and home. By 1949 the family was started to eventually consist of five children, four daughters and a son. The happy family unfortunately experienced change as sadly Frank expired in his home May 25, 1969 during his early 40's.  

Catherine maintained the family and home by keeping focus on basic needs and spiritual concerns for everyone. The years passed, and the children grew up and married to accomplish hopes and dreams, bringing both grandchildren and great-grandchildren to fill her years with joy. During the last twenty years, Catherine experienced poor health. The last five years offered more challenges with countless miracles to recover and return to a quality life. She wanted to be respected and honored with her final days in her home and in the company of family and friends. Quietly, she passed away in exactly the fashion she hoped for on Saturday, June 16, 2012, the feast day of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the day after the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Catherine was surrounded by family, martyrs, saints, angels and heavenly hosts ushering her towards the highest alter in heaven to celebrate the Eucharistic feast for the Lamb of God and the Resurrection of her soul with Christ, her Lord and Savior.

Joys: Family, friends, music, cultural events; Faith in Mary, the Holy Family, the Eucharist, IHM Sisters

Quotes: “We all have a number of days given to us at birth. You are numbered.”  
“Your health is your wealth” and “Some other guy has it worse off than you have it.” 

Flower Choice: White mums and roses

Favorite Color: Baby blue

Cherished Object: Communion Plaque of Mary

Favorite Prayer: "Hail Mary" and “Jesus my Lily, Jesus my Flower, the Lord be with me, my dying hour.”

Last Words: “I am ready.” 

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers in America and other countries and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Service-Learning Reflection Poem (School-Nursing Home Partnership, Dementia)

2012 ALTY Blog Award Runner Up 
Best Senior Home and Senior Care Facility Blog Post Runner-Up

Service-Learning Reflection Poem (School-Nursing Home Partnership, Dementia)

Nursing homes are ideal places for students to visit and share what they are learning in school. A national service-learning consultant and former schoolwide service-learning principal, I have had many occasions to witness these intergenerational partnerships. Service-learning is a teaching and learning approach that connects learning with meeting community needs. Included in curriculum learning objectives, service-learning is used by many school and community organizations. For example, after students learn how to write letters, service-learning could include writing letters to older adults who would benefit from receiving their letters. Of course, service recipients might show their appreciation by writing students letters in response. The exchange is always win-win, even when the rewards are intangible. And they usually are.

A growing body of service-learning research shows that students benefit academically and affectively as a result of service-learning. Because teachers prepare students well before their nursing home visits, students know what to expect. If a resident falls asleep or cries, students understand why that’s okay. The word dementia can be added to their vocabulary with relevance and meaning. They are open to the experience of being with the elderly and the challenged. They take pride in the roles they play in enriching lives.

After students return to school, they reflect on how the nursing home visit affected them, what they learned, and ways to share that information with others. While students' reflections can take many forms (written, oral, dance, music, art, etc.), the poem below is an example of poetic reflections from my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes, which includes a chapter on intergenerational partnerships between schools and nursing homes.

                        Student Reflections

I know you forget
you have a roommate,
imagine you take distant trips,
see me as a short brown blur
when I visit your nursing home.

I know your childhood
friends whisper secrets,
your favorite dress has ruffles,
my cards touch you with sunshine,
you love the stories I tell.

I know that carrots
make you frown,
my visits swing you higher,
loneliness glues you down,
you miss your friends who died.

I know you teach me
about new things,
praise me when I’m good,
help me care about others
the way you care about me.

                        © Frances Shani Parker

Note: Winner of the National Service-Learning Partnership Trailblazer Award, Frances Shani Parker, a hospice volunteer, writer, and eldercare consultant has been instrumental in implementing service-learning in school districts across the country.

You can read about our fourth graders' nursing home research on ageism stereotypes here.

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 other countries at online and offline booksellers.