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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clown Doctors for Older Adults: Dementia Research, Video 1:58


It’s no joking matter that laughter has important therapeutic value that can improve quality of life. The best laughter is spontaneous. Not only can we create reasons to laugh ourselves, other people can trigger the laughter response from us. It just makes good sense that the benefits of laughter should be integrated into the prevention and treatment of illness.

How about older adult clown therapy performed by clown doctors? Limited research shows that practitoners are increasingly using clown doctors in geriatric settings, including with people who have dementia and their caregivers. Clown doctors can help dementia patients improve well being, promote social interaction with their environment, and reduce problematic behavior. Benefits for the nursing staff include reduced workloads and stress relief. The overall work atmosphere becomes more positive. Keep in mind, however, that there are people who are very fearful of clowns.

The video Volunteer Clowns Visit Hospital Patients shows adults enjoying visiting clowns in California hospital.




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, February 22, 2012

Nursing Home Hospice Impact on Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Staff (Research, Video 1:56)


Hospice care in nursing homes continues to increase as more people become aware that hospice services are available wherever they live. Back in the 90’s when I first started hospice volunteering, many people told me they thought hospice care was only at private homes or in free-standing hospice facilities. On the negative side, there were those who thought nursing homes would get kickbacks from hospice referrals. Speculation about nursing homes receiving additional staff hours at no cost, which could lead to decreases in nursing home staffing, was mentioned.

What has happened in terms of nursing assistant staffing with the introduction of hospice care in nursing homes? Researchers at Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University studied this process for several years with these staffing results:

“The introduction of hospice services in a nursing home did not result in statistically significant changes in nursing assistant (CNA) staffing. Instead, increases in hospice volume resulted in small increases in CNA staffing.”

As a hospice volunteer working directly with patients, I had many opportunities to observe and communicate with CNA staff members who were often first responders in meeting resident needs. Many exhibited dedication and genuine care for residents in spite of their own expressed hardships on the job such as low pay, high staff turnover resulting in increased workloads, and lack of appreciation. The following video titled I am a Nursing Assistant shares their caregiving challenges and rewards:




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, February 17, 2012

Older Adults, Seniors Celebrate Mardi Gras (Nursing Home Residents in Video 1:26)


Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, my hometown, and in other cities greatly enhance older adults' quality of life. Mardi Gras Day will be next week on February 21 on "Fat Tuesday," the day before the Christian season of Lent starts. Older Adults celebrating this world-famous Carnival season often have parties and small parades. Many nursing homes and senior communities participate in the fun. Street parades attracting thousands of local residents and curious tourists occur daily. Parades are held during the day and at night.
Growing up in New Orleans, I loved this magical season. Mardi Gras parades created wonderful memories for me. The excitement of swimming in an ocean of festivity, the buoyancy from living fantastic fantasies thrilled my senses. They connected me with the same wave of wonderment flowing through every child who ever lived on this planet.
I store my New Orleans memories in a marvelous, mental, treasure chest painted with purple, green, and gold brush strokes, the official colors of Mardi Gras. All grown up, I still smile when I look inside. No doubt, many older adults will be smiling during Mardi Gras season now and in the future.

Upcoming Mardi Gras Day Dates

  • February 28, 2017
  • February 13, 2018
  • March 5, 2019
  • February 25, 2020
  • February 16, 2021
  • March 1, 2022
  • February 21, 2023
  • February 13, 2024
  • March 4, 2025
  • February 17, 2026
  • February 9, 2027
This video includes nursing home residents in small Louisiana communities participating in outdoor and indoor Mardi Gras celebrations that entertain all ages:




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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hospice Volunteer End-of-Life Vigil (Video 1:58)


The body knows when it’s time to slow down and die. Each body will die in its own way and in its own time when the process starts. The importance of being with a patient who doesn’t want to die alone is the reason many hospice programs are providing specialized volunteer vigil training. When it comes to patients, it is more about the volunteer being there than what the volunteer actually does. The patient senses and appreciates the volunteer’s presence. During vigil training, a volunteer is taught how to provide bedside support during the final days and hours of a patient’s life. Assistance for families is included. This can be an overwhelming time for patients and their families because so much of the experience is unchartered territory.

At some facilities, staff members also volunteer for vigil assignments. Vigils, which are based on a patient’s wishes, can include talking, praying, inspirational reading, playing music, performing rituals, touching and, of course, sharing silence. Vigils may last hours or days and can be done in shifts. Reflecting the hospice philosophy, volunteer vigils help provide the patient with a more peaceful end-of-life experience.

In this video, Doris, a hospice volunteer at the Hospice of Western Reserve shares her hospice experiences that include end-of-life vigiling with patients actively dying:





Many healthcare staff members who work with dying patients will tell you they have had patients share stories about seeing dead people, ghosts, spirits they recognize, and angels. View this post for my personal story and an informative video: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/end-of-life-seeing-dead-people-angels-frances-shani-parker?trk=mp-author-card

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, February 8, 2012

Older Adult Online Love: Internet Dating (Research, Video 3:59)


Believe it or not, the Internet is a good place to find out about the current status of older adults looking for romantic love. If you think they aren’t searching for love there in substantial numbers, you probably aren’t aware of numerous websites with a specific focus on meeting their matchmaking needs. I know several older adults myself who have found love on the Internet, but I’m also aware of some horror stories.

Older women looking for romance with men are at a particular disadvantage due to the shortage of eligible men available to them. Should they lower their standards or keep them high? After all, many older women are happier with lifestyles free of romantic obligations? What about men with the advantage of choosing from a much wider pool of women? How selective are they? Do older adults approach romance in a different manner than younger adults?

Research on older adults and romance was undertaken by the Department of Psychology at Georgia Southern University to determine these answers. They compared Internet dating profiles of 100 older adults and 100 younger adults. These results give insight into how older adults are approaching romance these days:

1)   Older adults, especially older women, were more selective than younger adults when it came to age, race, religion, income, and height of a prospective dating partner.

2)   Older adults were willing to travel substantially farther than younger adults to meet the right partner.

Note: My personal research at a popular matchmaking website indicated that many older adult men want women at least five to ten years younger than they are. That certainly doesn’t help older women, especially those who are more energetic and vibrant than most women and men their age.

What does all this research say about older adults in their search for love? They are eager to find that special someone, but not willing to settle for just anyone. Apparently, age and experience have made them pickier.

The older adult couples in this video from The Early Show met online and have been successful in finding love. Some older adults however, do find online meeting to be distrustful because potential dates don’t always tell the truth about themselves. Others still want to try to find soulmates there and not give up. All four couples who met online and married thought there were advantages in meeting on the Internet such as being able to ask more questions and getting to know more dating candidates faster. What about you? Would you try Internet dating? Do you have an Internet love story to share?




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, February 1, 2012

Hospice Poem: Michigan Volunteer Honors Alzheimer’s Patient and African American Ancestors (Ruby Bridges)


Guarded from angry mobs by federal marshals in 1960, first-grader Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, Louisiana, my hometown. In protest during the first year, most parents withdrew their children from the school.

Because my hospice volunteering is primarily in Detroit, Michigan, many people assume that all of my patients are African American. Actually, I have had several Caucasian patients who were in my care for years. Dying is universal. My patients and I come together as strangers and often discover that we share similarities that bond us to higher levels of understanding of one another and ourselves. Shared similarities can include race, language, talents, occupations, travel, values, joys, and pains.

I was inspired to write this poem while watching my hospice patient sleep. I thought about our shared African American heritage that bridged our communication beyond her Alzheimer's disease. This poem is dedicated to her and our ancestors, especially those strong and inspirational like Ruby Bridges.

Deeper Than Words

The outside world arrives
wearing my willing face.
Toothless, your smile widens
like a baby’s hungry for attention.
Almost ninety-eight years old,
your inner candle still glows.

A hospice volunteer, I lean closer,
talk into your listening left ear,
“Today is Sunday, Miss Loretta.”
My news drifts away like smoke.
You stare at me through dying coals.
Whatever I ask, you whisper, “Yes.”

I stroke your age-softened arms
while your hazed mind masters sleep.
Watching you, I dream generations
of women black and strong, each one
a book of sustaining stories
about joy, pain, courage, survival.

Within your warm brown frame,
spirits from our common history linger.
Aides say you have dementia,
that you don’t know a word I say.
Our language goes deeper than words.
We speak to each other’s souls.

© Frances Shani Parker


You can also read my tribute to a nun who positively impacted my life as a child and later developed and died from Alzheimer’s disease here:



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 also in e-book editions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.