Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year’s Eve Poem: Nursing Home Residents with Dementia, Alzheimer’s Celebrate

Being in the moment can bring great awareness. As a hospice volunteer, I learned a lot from quietly listening, observing and analyzing. Because many of my patients had dementia, I grew to respect their thought-provoking interpretations of reality and unique forms of expression. I wrote Mealtime Party after participating in many mealtimes and parties with nursing home residents. This carefree poem includes combinations of actual scenarios that took place. What do I know for sure? I know I visited their Oz weekly and became a better person.

 Mealtime Party

“Come to your party, Lurania! Have some tacos!
We’re singing in Spanish!” Lurania exclaims.
Her two-part conversations go back
and forth like a tennis match with one player.
Today, Lurania gives someone else her name
and hosts an imaginary party for herself.

Next to Lurania sits sleeping Mary.
A purring snore drifts from her open mouth,
a canon too tired to fire. She searched
all morning for her slippers
until she found them on her feet.
Now, she salsas in her dreams.

“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5...!” yells John, who thinks
Lurania's party is on New Year’s Eve.
He holds up his milk carton and shouts,
“Happy New Year!” John knows
the wish everyone wants to hear
as 12:00 noon begins another year.

Grace still wears the glow of a woman
who’s been in love. Her so-called boyfriend,
a nurse aide sixty years her junior,
blushed when told of her romantic fantasy.
Even though she “dumped” him,
their friendship will be a lasting flower.

“You know, Olga has been my sister
all my life,” Miller announces. I remind him
that yesterday Olga brought him
a chocolate chip cookie. Miller flaunts
a grin, satisfied that the streetcar
of his life looks great, rides just fine.

“Everybody can come! Lurania's parties
are wonderful!” Lurania hollers, intoxicated
with laughter resonating like a trumpet.
Everyone should come and marvel
at the magnificence of minds that dance,
turn somersaults to create happy realities.

© Frances Shani Parker (poem excerpt from 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.


  1. Frances:
    What a great and fascinating blog!
    Will read review of book and poetry videos a little later today.(Holiday company!)
    Thank you for sharing this information. As you may know, my Aunt Susie (103 years) is a nursing home resident and has been diagnosed with dementia/alzheimers so all you have written "touches home".
    Frances, I am so glad to have met you and to appreciate your good work. God Bless you always!
    Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you for the lovely word bouquet, Ruth. Please give your Aunt Susie my best wishes.

  2. Awesome poem. I love it. I'll be sharing it to my friends. Thanks.

  3. Your article gave me an idea. I've volunteered in rest homes, and helped with activities like bingo, and other stuff to help keep the mind limber. I wonder if having poetry composing workshops would be helpful for clients. Residents have lots of activity options, but how many of them are overtly creative? They, or someone with a loud voice, could then read their creations to the gathering.

    Paul |

  4. I have done life review writing with some nursing home residents, but not poetry writing. You could try and see how it goes.