Saturday, June 29, 2013

Live Together or Marry? Older Adult Couples Decide (Research, Video 2:14)

You’re an older adult couple living separately with plenty of life experiences behind you. Singlehood, marriage, divorce, raising children, and maybe a previous live-in relationship have come with life lessons. You’re ready to take your relationship to another level with more commitment and time together. Maintaining two households presents a financial burden. You’re not getting any younger. The question is where to take your relationship. Being in love, finances, and time are among several factors that will impact your decision. The bottom line for the two of you is cohabitation or marriage.

What’s an older couple to do? According to research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, cohabitation among adults over age 50 is rising rapidly. The Health and Retirement Study results indicate that “those who formed a union were as likely to be in a cohabiting relationship as a marriage." Older adult cohabiting unions were quite stable and unlikely to culminate in either marriage or separation. During later life, cohabitation appears to operate as a long-term alternative to marriage.

While many older adults have formed stable live-in relationship, there are still those who prefer to live in a traditional marriage. As this AARP video illustrates, age is no obstacle for this couple in making marriage vows. The bride is 100 years old, and the groom is 87. They joined in matrimony where they live at the Rosewood Health Care Center in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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 booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble .

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Healthcare, Hospice Student Volunteers (Video 5:46)

Suncoast Hospice Student Volunteers

The first time I volunteered at a nursing home, I was a high school student. A smiling older woman savored applesauce I fed her. I still remember her joy whenever I eat applesauce. This scenario came about as part of my service activities in a school club I had joined. Many years later, I found myself volunteering in nursing homes again and enjoying it even more.

A former principal of a schoolwide service-learning school, I have no doubt that service activities positively impact many students beyond just getting hours needed to graduate, a requirement that didn’t exist back in the day when I was a student. In addition to building character, performing service exposes students to various careers in the healthcare field, improves their self-esteem, and empowers them with the knowledge that they can really make a difference in improving the world one person at a time. But good service is always a win-win opportunity for both the giver and the recipient.

Intergenerational service activities with schools partnering with nursing homes, hospice organizations, and other healthcare institutions can add wonderful layers of personal growth and satisfaction for everyone involved.

The following student activities, which may overlap, should be performed under the supervision of a teacher or coordinator after partners plan together and agree on needs to be met.

Elementary and Middle School Students 

1. Make biographical booklets of patients’ lives.
2. Make greeting cards and/or placemats for holidays.
3. Make fleece comfort pillows or other items.
4. Bake holiday cookies or other treats for patients/families.
5. Make care packages such as decorated bags with bottled water, cookies, crackers, tissues, candy, and reading material for patients.
6. Visit nursing homes to socialize with residents, showcase school-related activities, sing songs, or play games (Wii, checkers, chess, bingo, etc.) with patients.
7. Exhibit school projects such as artwork, photographs, science projects, booklets, posters, seasonal displays, etc.

High School and College Students

1. Do in-office work, including filing, faxing, and preparing admission packets.
2. Host tea parties, movies, and other social events.
3. Provide one-on-one time and attention by reading to, writing letters for, playing games with, or simply talking and listening to patients.
4. Videotape, record, or make booklets of patients’ life reviews.
5. Assist families with yard work, cleaning out garages, planting flowers, small paint jobs, and home-building projects (i.e. wheelchair ramps).
6. Assist patients and families by doing errands, walking dogs, picking up groceries, etc.
7. If the age requirement of an organization is met, train to become regular patient-care volunteers and take on a wide range of hospice volunteer opportunities, including music therapy, pet volunteer program, and general patient visits. This is a great time to give students hands-on experiences in healthcare, especially if they are considering careers as a medical assistant, nurse assistant (CNA), nurse, or doctor.

Note: Winner of the National Service-Learning Partnership Trailblazer Award, Frances Shani Parker, a national consultant, has been instrumental in implementing service-learning in school districts across the country. Her book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes includes a chapter on intergenerational partnerships between schools and nursing homes.

In this video, teen volunteers at Suncoast Hospice share views on their fulfilling service experiences.

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, June 16, 2013

Your Ethical Will: Morals, Values, Wishes for Heirs

Do you have morals, values, wishes, or expressions of forgiveness and love that you want to pass on to others after you die? Recording your intentions in an ethical will is one way of doing that. This excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes explains the ethical will:

"Another kind of will that more people are considering is an ethical will. This non-binding will, which can be written or recorded informally in audio or video, includes values, morals, and wishes that someone bequeaths or hands down to others. While it is not legally binding, an ethical will provides a wonderful opportunity to pass on a legacy from one generation to the next, across generations, and beyond family members. Conveying this information, which may include stories, can be very comforting, particular for someone who is terminally ill. It’s a personal way of letting relatives and friends know one’s ethical intentions that are not connected to material inheritance. For example, a father might encourage his children to be good parents or will them the courage to make just decisions in life. Relatives might be asked to continue positive family traditions. Particular family members and friends might be advised to improve by incorporating more positive behaviors that have been lacking.”

Think about what your legacy beyond material gain would be for your beneficiaries. Consider leaving a record of your wishes in an ethical will.

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 booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.