Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oldest Adult Secrets to Long Healthy Lives (Longevity Research, Video 1:58)

Do you want to live to be in your nineties? How about living to be 100 and beyond in relatively good health for that age? More and more of the oldest adult Americans are doing just that. University of Southern California longevity researchers studying this extraordinary group of people have found several characteristics unique to the population of the oldest old:

1) They were more likely to live independently and had fewer diseases, better mental health, and better physical and cognitive function than those who did not survive to age 97.

2) They experienced health declines upon reaching 97 years of age, but between one-fifth and one-third of them remained disease free with no functional limitations or depressive symptoms, and one-fifth retained high cognitive function.

3) Oldest men were healthier than the oldest women, and whites were generally healthier than nonwhites. Oldest adults who were educated had better cognitive function than their less-educated counterparts.
Sure, we all know of and hear most about very old adults who reach maximum longevity in a state of poor health and functioning. But let us not forget about and encourage others to be more aware of the oldest of the old who remain healthy and high-functioning.

In this video titled Secrets to Living 100 Years, exceptionally old adults share their personal secrets to longevity:

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.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Be a Great Hospice Volunteer

How to Be a Great Hospice Volunteer 

By Frances Shani Parker, Author

1)   Remember why you serve.

There’s a reason you feel compelled to enhance lives of the terminally ill. Cherish that inspiration. Move forward committed to an amazing and rewarding healthcare adventure.

2)   Believe it’s all win-win.

Providing end-of-life service is a privilege, not a calling to be a savior. You and those you support come together in relationships of mutual healing and growth. Honor your win-win journey.

3)   Be present.

By all means, show up. But be present with patients after you arrive. Evaluate appearances, behaviors, surroundings, and interactions with others. Listen with your heart. Even silence speaks. Really try to understand living from their perspectives. Focus on advocacy for improving their quality of life.

4)   Try other doors.

Patients will have challenges such as dementia that may not respond to your usual front-door communication. Try other doors and even windows. Obstacles are enrichment opportunities in your partnerships with patients. Touch, music, pictures, stories, and fantasies are a few entry points. Let patients help you navigate your way into their world.

5)   Know your piece in the puzzle.

Adherence to rules of protocol and professional ethics should be routine. Be aware of boundaries such as confidentiality regarding yourself, your patients, and their loved ones. Follow guidelines of your hospice organization, and seek help when needed.

6)   Untie your knots.

There may be times of doubt, confusion, sadness, and guilt. These are normal knots of the caregiving process. Untie them by seeking support for your total well-being. Maintain proper rest, nutrition, exercise, and balance in your life. Do your best. Don’t be surprised when you discover reasons to kiss yourself.

7)   Spread the word.

Be knowledgeable about hospice and palliative care. Share information so others can benefit from these specialized areas of healthcare. Encourage involvement in hospice and palliative care career and service activities.

8)   Pick up a turtle.

If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know somebody helped to put it there. Be on the lookout for turtles aiming for fence posts. Be a role model for other volunteers. Participate in organizations, conferences, workshops, and discussion groups where you can share best practices while learning new ideas.
9)   Write death sentences.

Death will come no matter how often you avoid it or wrestle it to the ground. Have your advance directives, finances, and property in legal order. Urge others to do the same. Don’t burden loved ones later with important decisions you can record now. As you unfasten yourself from this life, be satisfied knowing your death sentences will be carried out according to your wishes.
10)  Expect rainbow smiles.

Rainbow smiles hug you so tightly you can feel ribs of joy press against your essence. Hospice volunteering provides ongoing moments for you to positively impact lives. When you make those connections happen, rainbow smiles will come.

© Frances Shani Parker

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, June 11, 2012

Funeral Home Pacemakers: Recycled Gifts from the Dead (Research, Surgery Video 1:51)

When people think of gifts from the dead, they often think of organ donations that usually don’t reach poor patients in developing countries. But funeral homes have become involved with donating reused, permanent pacemakers for saving lives. A pacemaker device can be reimplanted to adjust an abnormally low heart rate to meet the body's needs during exercise or rest. Implantation of a pacemaker, generally in a pocket of skin in the shoulder area, typically can be done with local anesthetics and a sedative and include relatively quick recovery.

Pacemaker researchers at the University of Texas-Health Science Center studied 121 indigent patients in Mumbai, India at a charity hospital. All patients survived the pacemaker operations with no significant complications resulting from the surgery. Those employed were able to return to work and continue household chores. As a result of these gifts from the dead, poor patients in developing countries are able to improve their quality of life.

In the following video, Dr. Joseph Reilly, a board certified cardiologist and electrophysiologist, explains pacemaker implantation surgery:

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, June 6, 2012

Older Adults’ Body Odor: Research on Stereotypes Helps Children

Have you heard of "old people smell?" Stereotypes about older adults begin early in life, even as young as three years old. I saw this demonstrated at my school where I was principal. Our students completed pre and post surveys as part of their nursing home visits. We asked them what their expectations were about nursing homes and the residents who lived there. Fourth graders told us they thought residents would be boring, slow, grouchy, and trying to get into their "business."

At the nursing home, many residents made the students laugh and expressed how glad they were to see them. Students discovered that these older adults used to be young just like they were, and they were a lot like most people are. I remember several students being especially surprised to hear a woman in her eighties describe her basketball achievements in high school. Students were amazed at how their stereotypes about older adults changed when they did the same surveys after returning to school from their visits.

What concerns me most about these and other stereotypes about older adults is not only the negative impact they have on the self-esteem of the adults themselves, but also the negative impact they have on children. These negative biases can impact them through the years in ways that are damaging in how they treat older adults, perceive themselves, and in how they perceive aging. These youngsters may grow up to become the negative stereotypes they believe if they are not made aware that many stereotypes about older adults are myths.

With these thoughts in mind, I was encouraged that a common stereotype about older adults having bad body odor now has research to support that this stereotype is false. Many people, including some older adults, believe that a bad “old people smell” similar to mildew, tuna, mothballs, etc. naturally comes with aging. This NPR article published in the PLoS ONE Journal showcases research that not only refutes that theory, but also concludes that many older adults smell better than young people. Old people smell different, not worse.

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.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Caregiver-Patient Poems: Nursing Home, Long-Term Care Mealtime, Volunteer Appreciation

I fell in love with poetry at an early age. The rhythms, the messages, and the sheer creativity of finding the right words have always been fascinating to me. As a hospice volunteer in Detroit nursing homes for many years, I naturally began to record my experiences in poetic forms. These are two of my caregiver-patient poems that are published in online anthologies at other websites.  I’ve given you the first few lines. Click the two publication links below to read my complete poems and offerings by other writers.

Mealtimes in long-term care and other older adult facilitites mean nourishment for residents’ bodies and minds. They are wonderful opportunities for caregiver and patient to share time together, sometimes ending with a special treat.

Sweet Treat
By Frances Shani Parker

A wisp of a woman, she waits
eagerly for her dinner tray.
I hide her magic ice cream cup
that makes other foods invisible.
Each mouthful of nutrition
adds time to her aging clock.
“Is this my ice cream?” she asks
before I feed her meatloaf.
She chews slowly, searches
for the missing sweetness.

Read the complete poem at The Barefoot Review.

Volunteering with terminally ill patients in a nursing home comes with unique challenges, especially when the patient and volunteer have difficulty communicating. Solving problems, realizing personal growth, and enjoying patient appreciation make service a very rewarding experience.

By Frances Shani Parker

His weary, tucked-in body
lies in a nursing home bed.
A black Gandhi, he yearns for peace.
His days are chains of mountains
formed by pressures of frustration.

I approach him like a helpless child,
wonder how to lift his spirits.
Eyes that have seen ninety years
squint tightly as daggers of pain
pierce his cancerous form.

Read the complete poem at The Survivor's Review.
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.