Friday, January 28, 2011

Older Adults/ Seniors and Technology Stereotype (Research, Video 2:58)

What percentage of adults over age 65 use the Internet? If you’re like most people, you may have bought into the stereotype that the percentage is very low. Actually, 42% of adults over age 65 use the Internet. This statistic has increased 11% over the past year and continues to grow.

What are they doing on the Internet? Young people might say they are looking for sales on walkers or Viagra sources. They could be right, but older adults are looking for so much more and finding it. I personally know an older adult who has found love on the Internet twice at a matchmaking website. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology report that older adults’ positive attitudes about technology outnumber their negative attitudes. They believe that positive attitudes support many activities that older adults find convenient and useful.

Is there anything older adults don’t like about the Internet? Like many of all ages, they worry about Internet security. With all the hacking and scamming that target older adults, they should be concerned. They dislike some of the inconvenience and unreliability that holds hands with technology sometimes. But they mostly like the benefits they get from the technology experience such as Internet browsing, learning new information, social networking with family and friends, and even planning trips on their own.

Put the technology stereotype to rest. There’s a big world out there in cyberspace. Education can encourage even more older adults to explore the many wonders technology has to offer. If you're a senior who wants to learn more about traveling in cyberspace, contact your local Area Agency on Aging, a senior center, or your public library for information on where you can attend classes. Have a great trip!

At the age of 91, Naomi Long Madgett, Poet Laureate of Detroit, MI, enjoys using technology. Her good choices with the "new stuff" enhance her quality of life. You can read more about Naomi and iPad research with older adults here:

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hospice Volunteers and Family Bereavement (Research, Video 5:41)

Even after patients have died, the impact of hospice volunteers continues. Volunteers can play an important role in the bereavement of family members and the ratings of their loved ones’ quality end-of-life care. A study at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University highlights the importance of volunteers in bereaved family members’ higher overall satisfaction with hospice services.

Using an analysis of the number of volunteer hours used in direct patient care and the total number of patient days served, researchers surveyed 305 hospice programs (67% freestanding and 20.7% for profit). A total of 57,353 surveys were submitted. Hospice programs with the greatest usage of volunteers had higher overall ratings of quality care. These programs with higher use of volunteers per patient day were associated with bereaved family members’ reports that the hospice programs quality of care was excellent. Research results such as this confirm the major contributions hospice volunteers make in improving quality end-of-life-care and bereavement.

This video showcases The Community Hospice, the largest hospice program in New York and one of the nation’s largest non-profit hospice programs. Grief and bereavement programs there service everyone, regardless of whether the person who died was a hospice patient:

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.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Older Adult/ Senior Bullies in Long-Term Care and Senior Communities

Some people wake up and change. Others just roll over. I’m referring to the bullies of our pasts and others who have become older adult bullies. These bullies are now terrorizing residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities, senior centers, and retirement communities around the country.

Welcome to the irony of older adults practicing ageism. The first time I witnessed older adults bullying others was at a senior center where, after a great deal of resistance from members, the age for joining the center had finally been lowered from 62 to 55 years old. Most local senior centers had already lowered their membership age years before this center. Several older members were openly rude to younger members who joined. At lunchtime, I watched them “reserving” tables for their older friends and leaving leftover seating for younger members. I overheard negative comments about “those new young people” stated loudly enough for everyone to hear. I even witnessed an attempt to get a younger member in trouble. I reported all incidents I witnessed to the administration. They said they were “working on the problem, but change takes time.” Unfortunately, many older adults don’t have a lot of time ahead of them. No one should have to spend their golden years being victimized daily by mean-spirited bullies.

These are some hurtful actions of “mature” bullies:

1.    Block off seats for their little cliques at mealtimes and events.

2.    Criticize, ridicule, and lie about those who don’t meet their standards of acceptance regarding race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, economic background, and any other criteria they condone.

3.    Steal and destroy property to flaunt their power and harass victims.

4.    Physically abuse victims by pushing, hitting, punching, or kicking them. They sometimes justify this as an “accident.”

A former school principal, I know bullying is a problem that only gets worse when it’s ignored. Too often the victims are vulnerable and defenseless. Some, such as those targeted because of their sexual orientation, become so depressed they commit suicide. Observers are often too afraid themselves to take a stand. The administration must be seriously involved. These are some guidelines that can help solve problems of bullying:

1.    Commit to and promote principles of equality and respect for all residents/members.

2.    Do a confidential needs assessment on bullying to determine how severe the problem is. General needs assessments should be done annually.

3.    Have open discussions involving residents, staff, and community members about bullying, its causes, and solutions. Consultants with expertise in bullying, conflict resolution, diversity, etc. can be especially helpful.

4.    Provide extensive staff training in how to handle bullying among themselves and those they serve.  Continue to educate residents/members. Victims need the support, and bullies need to be reminded that eliminating bullying is an ongoing priority.

5.    Review and change procedures that can decrease the power of bullies. For example, eliminating reserved seating and implementing another seating procedure can prevent bullying cliques from saving blocks of the best seats for themselves.

6.    Create and disseminate a zero tolerance policy on bullying along with channels for reporting incidents and resolving them.

7.    Keep in mind that the goal is to create a culture where no bullying is the standard embedded in how the institution operates. There must be consistency in implementation and visible recognition of everyone’s dignity and rights.

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.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Animals Supporting Hospice-Palliative Care Philosophy (Research, Video 4:15)

Many animals seem to instinctively support the hospice-palliative care philosophy. Researchers at the University of Stirling and at Blair Drummond Safari Park in the United Kingdom reported how three chimpanzees nurtured an elderly dying chimpanzee named Pansy. Although the chimpanzees had been separated from Pansy during the earlier stage of her illness when she was being treated, they were allowed to join her during the final phase just before her death. The chimpanzees “frequently groomed and caressed” her. They stayed close to her, shook her shoulder to test for signs of life, and appeared to understand when she was no longer alive. Although Pansy’s daughter Rosie did not normally sleep near her mother, she stayed with her mother’s corpse most of the night, but she didn’t sleep soundly.

Sixteen hours later, the chimpanzees quietly witnessed Pansy’s corpse being removed by the zookeepers. Days later, they were still subdued and refused to make a nest on the platform where Pansy had died. I thought it was interesting that they also demonstrated a need for more attention for themselves. For humans, the bereavement process is so often made easier when others support their healing.

Should zookeepers re-evaluate the common practice of removing terminally ill animals from a group?  James Anderson, lead author, thinks so. He says, “It may be more humane to allow the group to remain together until a sick animal dies, to give the ailing animal comfort, and allow the group a sense of closure.” Does that sound familiar?

The video below highlights an everyday cat coping with the suffering or death of another cat. It’s raw expression of nurturing and grief. This scenario says a lot about animals and heartfelt caregiving. Can you feel the love?

Frances Shani Parker, Author