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.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Tree Memorial for Deceased Hospice Patients (Video 2:57)

Hospice workers experience patients’ deaths on a regular basis. The frequency of these experiences can sometimes cause the individuality of each death to be overshadowed by the totality of them all. Al Poeppel, a hospice volunteer, has found a special way to honor each of his departed patients during the Christmas season.

The outdoor Christmas memorial tree created by Poeppel is his labor of love. The decorated tree celebrates his deceased patients, supports their families, and encourages introspection among the general public admiring the impressive tree as they drive by. Each tree ornament bears a deceased patient’s name that helps Poeppel reflect on the times he shared with that person. Poeppel thinks families appreciate knowing that their loved ones are remembered. He also hopes that the tree reminds others of the importance of making the most of life.

Happy holidays to all of you. I hope the new year brings you every flavor of joy. In this video, you can view Poeppel’s amazing Christmas tree and hear his heartwarming story.

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.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Volunteer Caregiver – Patient Christmas Story

Have you ever celebrated Christmas in May? A hospice volunteer in Detroit nursing homes, I shared a wonderful Christmas in May experience with one of my patients. Sometimes patients needed me to help them solve problems. One day, Inez and I had an especially great visit. I had been thinking about how to find a key for a music box her niece had given her for Christmas. She loved that music box and liked to have it on display, so she would have a good excuse to talk about it. She had never heard it play because the key was missing when she received it. She said her niece had tried to find a key, but with no success.

The music box was a lovely piece of handiwork. A wooden base supported a clear glass container. Inside the container lay a beautiful butterfly resting on a small floral bouquet. Underneath the box was a hidden switch that made the seasonal display enchant with spurts of brightness. Inez, my ninety-two year old patient, said that she often sat and watched the softly glowing scene blink on and off. One night, she and I quietly watched it together. That's when I realized how much this silent little music maker meant to her. Unfortunately, neither of us knew what song it was supposed to play. We imagined the Christmas song we thought it should play and hoped one day we could solve the mystery.

Getting the music box to play became my project, but I knew I would need some help. The next day, I explained the problem to Burton, a teacher at my school. He decided to become a part of the solution by checking out some stores that might have the missing key. It sounded like the search for Cinderella's shoe. After looking for two weeks, Burton finally found a matching key at a large toy store. The sales lady was so touched by his story about Inez's "musicless" box that she gave him the key free of charge. We couldn't believe our good fortune, which became Inez's thrill maker.

In the second week of May with spring showing off nature's fashion makeover from winter, Inez heard her cherished music box play for the very first time. She picked it up gently and carefully placed it near her hearing aid. The song we had wondered about for months, the song that had driven us to discover its name finally played the sweetest version of "Joy to the World." Just hearing the music box fulfill its purpose felt like a miracle. Inez grinned widely, thanked me, and told me to thank the nice man who found the missing key that made her music box come alive.

The mystery had been solved, and Inez was ecstatic. I thought nothing else that day could outdo the pleasure of hearing the music box play, but I was wrong. After Inez set her mechanical miracle on the window sill, so we could admire it playing and revolving, something wonderful occurred that surprised us both: The brightly colored butterfly started moving, slowing creeping up to the opening red flower. Inez and I gave each other eerie "Twilight Zone" looks. Then we shared rainbow smiles about the joy in our own little world.

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.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Loneliness: How Older Adults Cope (Research, Meals on Wheels Volunteer Video 1:10)

Whether at home or in institutions, loneliness can be both difficult and dangerous for the overall health of older adults. Too many of them endure the negative impact of loneliness daily and have trouble coping. Because information on this topic is so limited, the Department of Sociology at VU University in Amsterdam did research on how older adults cope and help their lonely peers in coping. This research on older adult loneliness was done with 1,187 respondents aged 62-100 viewing four vignettes about lonely people and later being asked about coping skills that would help. Older adults emphasized two ways of coping:

1)   Active Coping (improving relationships)

2) Regulative Coping (lowering expectations about relationships)


Older adults suggested using both ways to cope with loneliness, but active coping was suggested less often to people who are older, in poor health, or lonely and by older adults who were employed in midlife and have high self-esteem. Regulative coping with lower relationship expectations was suggested more often to people who are older and by older adults with a low educational level and with low mastery. Unfortunately, active coping through improving relationships is less often seen as an option for and by the people who could benefit most from it.

These results further emphasize the need for improving relationships in the lives of lonely older adults. Year-round regular visiting from family, friends, volunteers, and others can do so much to improve their self-esteem and general quality of life. In this video titled Delivering So Much More Than Meals - A REAL Volunteer Story, Max, a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels demonstrates the win-win rewards of visiting those who are lonely.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers in America and several other countries and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.