Monday, January 28, 2013

Doctors’ Burnout, Cremation and a Blog Birthday (Research, Video: .51)

Welcome to my sixth Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog birthday party! Now that you’re here, have some mouth-watering chocolate cake while I tell you about blogging predictions. A fantastic aspect of blogging is predicting which posts will be most popular. I’ve been surprised many times. With thousands of pageviews, these are the top two posts over the past six years:

1) Hospice-Palliative Care Doctors and Burnout (Research, Video 5:48) 

Posted in 2010, this post is by far the most viewed of all. I was particularly attracted to writing it because the research and video concerning doctors’ burnout are eye-openers about their personal career suffering.

If there is any doubt that cremation continues to grow in acceptance in America, this post proves it. Posted in 2010, it continues to receive pageviews regularly.

My goodness! The years keep ending and beginning, and now it's 2013. Blogging is a challenging, rewarding and service-oriented activity for me. A solitary process, it still gives me opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with interesting, like-minded people all over the world. My objectives are to promote more interest in hospice and palliative care, share my personal journey and insights as a hospice volunteer, increase person-centered nursing homes, and improve quality of life for older adults in general.

Thank you for dropping by my blog birthday party and for any other times you have visited this site. Commemorating this milestone with the Happy Birthday song sponsored by the American Cancer Society is singer, actress and spokesperson Jennifer Hudson:

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.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hospice Book Review by Reader Scared of Death

The reading audience of hospice and other books about death includes many who approach this subject with fear. They also avoid talking, writing or reading about the end of life. An author, eldercare consultant and hospice volunteer, I have been told on numerous occasions that dying is just too depressing and final to share openly.

This reluctance to deal with mortality visited a friendship of mine. I had given a casual friend a copy of my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes. Wanting to be sensitive and not knowing her feelings about death, I decided not to talk to her about the book unless she mentioned it. Eventually, she did. I’ll call her Alice. She approved my writing this blog post.

Because Alice works in the healthcare profession, I was surprised to discover that she feels strongly that death, a frightening stalker of her dreams, is an enemy that terrifies her. She shared that death has stolen too many of her loved ones, including pets. She helplessly dreads the thought of losing even more. My own acceptance of death, which comes across clearly in my conversations and writings, seems inappropriate to her. She finds my views too accepting of her adversary, too casual a regard for life. While she says she would consider hospice care along with other options in the future, she admits she could never be even an average hospice volunteer. It would be too painful.

What is her review of Becoming Dead Right? She loves the patients’ stories and my comments about interactions with various people in the nursing home world. The original poetry, which concludes each chapter and probably nudges her own poetic abilities, pleases her. She finds the discussions on hospice, nursing homes, caregiving, dementia, death and bereavement informative. The explanations about intergenerational school-nursing home partnerships and the ideal nursing home described in the last chapter are particularly enjoyable. But she dislikes emphatically the premise that there is a “right” way to die.

I am not sure if her hostility toward death has changed much, but I hope that this book meeting with what she refers to as “the monster” has impacted her positively on some level. Those of us who embrace the reality of dying and death will continue to be viewed with dismay by those who cope with mortality through avoidance and resignation of themselves and loved ones as victims of malicious end-of-life  powers.

Alice’s revelations reinforce the importance of promoting dying as a natural part of life that should be experienced with calm and dignity by everyone. I believe conversations and writings enhance lives of the naysayers one person at a time. These efforts empower them slowly with death acceptance even as they resist the message. I appreciate Alice’s frankness in sharing death’s distressful presence in her life and in giving feedback on my book. Most of all, I commend her willingness to become a ball of courage rolling into the high weeds where the death monster lives.

You can read book endorsements, excerpts, and more at my website.

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, January 14, 2013

Robot Caregivers of Older Adults: Do You Love Me? (Research, Video:1:47)

Seriously, can older adults not love Nursebot Pearl? She talks, has a face with interchangeable parts for various emotions, reminds them about important tasks, sends information remotely to caregivers, and provides needed strength for manipulating objects. No, she can’t replace a great human caregiver, but she can certainly hold her own and help older adults stay independent when humans are in short supply. But can they love her?

Researchers wondered, too. In the paper titled Older Adults' Preferences for and Acceptance of Robot Assistance for Everyday Living Tasks, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology showed groups of adults age 65 to 93 a video of a robot's capabilities and then asked them how they would feel about having a robot in their homes. What was their response? Apparently, older adults loved the idea of robots for some tasks, but preferred humans for others:

Loveable Robotic Assistance:

1)   Housekeeping and laundry
2)   Reminders to take medication and other health-related tasks
3)   Enrichment activities such as learning new information or skills
4)   Participation in hobbies

Preferred Human Assistance:

1)   Personal tasks such as eating, dressing, bathing and grooming
2)   Social tasks such as phoning family or friends

Let the record show that older adults can and do love robots under certain conditions. View this video from AARP Tech Beat which explores how robots can serve as home health aides and help people to continue living independently in the future.

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, January 7, 2013

Dead Bodies No One Claims: Death Ritual, Disposal (Video 4:16)

People die every day leaving bodies that no one claims. Perhaps no loved ones can be found. Maybe found loved ones will not or cannot pay for body disposal services. Some bodies are donated to science, but many are not. Who honors unclaimed bodies with a death ritual? Who is responsible for disposal of their remains?

Sometimes concerned strangers celebrate unclaimed deceased members of our society with a final farewell ceremony. A few years ago, I attended a death ritual service where community people simply joined with a local funeral home where the morgue sent unclaimed bodies for cremation and disposal. Together they created a monthly public ritual honoring the unclaimed deceased.

The day I participated, we paid our respects to 28 deceased people whose actual bodies were not present. Our purpose was to provide a final send-off to celebrate their lives. For various reasons such as abandonment at the morgue and hospitals, or loved ones not providing a funeral, these spirits of the old and young found their way to this ritual that brought formal closure to the lives of those with no other means of having this observance.

The service included heartfelt words, music, printed programs, American flags, candles and beautiful roses representing each deceased honoree. I sensed something powerful in the room when each departed person’s earthly existence was affirmed with an orally read acknowledgement stating name (if known), date of birth and death. Our sincere and enthusiastic response of “May he/she rest in peace” felt empowering, knowing our presence served as testimony to their lives and our hopes for their future peace. We sang in celebration of this momentous occasion. Each honoree had been claimed.

There is still the question of who pays financially for cremation and disposal of unclaimed bodies. That answer is explained in this special news report. This video describes how much taxpayers in one state and local county spent on cremating bodies that went unclaimed in the morgue and medical examiner's office.

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.