Friday, February 25, 2011

Grandparents as Parents (GAP): Help for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (Video)

They thought they were finished living with children and definitely finished raising them. But that is not their reality. At a time when they are dealing with their own aging and illnesses, many grandparents and even some great grandparents are raising children. They belong to a growing population of older adults responsible for millions of children whose biological parents are not taking care of them. These caregivers never reached that cherished destination of unending childfree years after their own adult children left home. Even grandparents in their seventies are part of this widening circle.

Although we usually hear about couples or grandmothers raising their grandchildren, I have a male friend in his sixties who is raising his two grandchildren alone. Like many others, he is surprised that he has had to assume these life-changing responsibilities during the retirement years he planned most of his working life. Unfortunate circumstances usually are the cause of these unexpected caregiving roles. The amazing part, however, is how well many grandparents and grandchildren adjust to their new lifestyle changes. But the financial, physical, and emotional challenges involved can be very stressful. 

The Grandparents as Parents (GAP) program is a community based organization in the Los Angeles County area that provides emotional support, educational services, counseling, funding for social activities, and other resources for grandparents and their grandchildren. Other nonbiological caregivers rasing children are also assisted. Visit this AARP site for more information about support for grandparents raising grandchildren. 

This video titled “Grandparents Raising Kids” highlights the Henderson family:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hospice-Palliative Volunteers: Ranking and Rating Services (Research, Video 2:05)

Denver Hospice Volunteer Training Class

Imagine you were recently diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Would you want a hospice-palliative care volunteer to join this journey with you and your family? More and more adults see the value in this decision. Their concern centers around, not only the services they will receive, but also the benefits their families can reap at this critical time. Mount Alison University researchers familiarized 143 adults with the services of volunteers and asked them to simply imagine having a terminal illness. The vast majority (94.4%) wanted volunteer support.

Hospice-palliative volunteers provide many services that can be categorized as emotional, social, practical, informational, and religious/spiritual. When these groupings were narrowed down to 23 specific volunteer tasks and presented to research participants for ranking, they chose practical support most. Practical support includes tasks such as running errands, writing letters, feeding, and grooming. Gender differences in participants’ emotional and social support preferences were significant, with women rating them more important than men did. Emotional support includes holding hands, playing music, saying words of comfort. Social support includes tasks such as sharing hobbies, pushing wheelchairs, and participating in recreational activities.

In this video, Annie, a Hospice of the Western Reserve volunteer, shares her experience
in providing supportive visits to patients and families.

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Holocaust Survivors and Offspring: How Are They Coping? (Research, Video 2:17)

Erika is my Jewish friend who was a child during the Holocaust. The Holocaust refers to the Nazis' systematic murder of more than six million European Jews, as well as members of other persecuted groups such as gypsies, homosexuals, and the disabled.

Her firsthand stories give history a name and face that validate the plight of those murdered during that horrific period. She attributes her current existence to a sympathetic family that hid her in their home from Nazi soldiers. Like many survivors who are older adults now, Erika continues to cope with the trauma of her childhood experiences. 

Because of their backgrounds, Holocaust survivors may find aging more stressful. Their children may find maintaining their parents’ daily satisfaction with life more challenging at times as a direct result of parents’ posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.

How are the two generations faring in general? The University of Haifa in Israel researched Holocaust survivors and their offspring for information on their lives. They studied them using a case study design with 174 participants of two generations with four groups: 32 elderly female Holocaust survivors and 47 daughters, and 33 elderly women in the comparison group, and 32 daughters. Mental health, physical health, and cognitive functioning were examined

Results revealed that “Holocaust survivors still display posttraumatic stress symptoms almost 70 years after the trauma.” On a positive note, adult offspring of Holocaust survivors showed no differences in their physical, psychological, and cognitive functioning as compared to matched controls. I noticed they used the word “functioning,” which is quite different from saying they carry no negative impact regarding that part of their history.

This video titled “Holocaust Survivor Testimony: Menachem Frenkel” showcases another Jewish child who survived the Holocaust due to the extraordinary goodwill of others who risked their own lives. Rescue attempts were made by three organizations -- the OSE (Children's Aid Society), Amitie Chretienne, and the Jewish Underground in Lyons -- to remove some 100 Jewish children from a concentration camp. Menachem and his sister were among those rescued one night. They escaped being among the 1.5 million Holocaust victims under the age of twelve. 

Frances Shani Parker, Author

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hospice-Palliative Volunteers Support Patients’ Social Activities

Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes by Frances Shani Parker is now published in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.

Hospice-palliative patients are not always able to participate in many social activities, but they should be encouraged to become involved when they can. Social interactions can improve their sense of belonging, distract them from being depressed, and bolster their independence. Sometimes they can watch from the sidelines while still expressing their opinions and creativity.

As a hospice volunteer in Detroit nursing homes for many years, I found it very rewarding being a catalyst for patient involvement at festive gatherings. The following excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes (paperback and e-book editions) demonstrates an important role volunteers can play in supporting patients’ participation:

Richard, my hospice patient in his eighties, seemed depressed some days, as if leaving his room to spend time with others was too much of a bother. I focused on ways to help him turn his indifference inside out, even as death’s footsteps quickened down his path. After a great deal of motivating conversation, I finally convinced him to allow me to give him a wheelchair ride to a theatrical performance at the nursing home.

 “Along the way, Richard greeted other patients and staff members who were headed down the hall in the same direction. Some shuffled along with canes and walkers, while others moved with little or no assistance. Caressing her blanket, a white-haired woman with dementia told Richard she was on her way to the airport to catch a plane. A man broke out in song with “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” I couldn’t help rolling my eyes in disbelief when Richard started telling people to hurry, so we wouldn’t be late. With each turn of his wheelchair, I could feel his energy growing as we approached the big blue room, a place that made him feel good.

 Exhilaration ignited as the show started. Accompanied by the soft thunder of drumbeats, speakers shared stories and poems in praise of their elders. Residents were given small instruments to play and were coaxed to join in singing lively songs. Dances from back in the day inspired some audience members to sway in their seats. For a soul-stirring while, the nursing home disappeared. We were all transported to a fabulous planet where euphoria was our oxygen. I watched a radiant Richard wave at people he recognized, holler when the emcee gave the signal, and clap like his life depended on it. And the quality of his life really did.”

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.