Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hospice Long-Term-Care Social Activities

Hospice patients are not always able to participate in some long-term-care social activities. But they should be encouraged to become involved whenever they can. Social interactions can improve their sense of belonging, distract them from being depressed, and bolster their independence. Sometimes they can watch from the sidelines while still expressing their opinions and creativity. As a hospice volunteer in Detroit nursing homes for many years, I found it very rewarding being a catalyst for my terminally ill residents’ involvement at festive gatherings. 

Richard, my hospice patient in his eighties, seemed depressed some days. He gave me the impression that leaving his room to spend time with other residents was too much of a bother. I suspected he would respond that way if I invited him to an upcoming program, so I came prepared with ideas to change his mind. I focused on ways to help him turn his indifference inside out, even as death’s footsteps slowly moved down his path. After a great deal of motivating conversation, I finally convinced him to allow me to give him a wheelchair ride to a theatrical performance in the blue room at the nursing home. I reminded him that was where he had previously enjoyed listening to children sing songs they had learned at school.

(Excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes)

 “Along the way, Richard greeted other residents and staff members who were headed down the hall in the same direction. Some shuffled along with canes and walkers, while others moved with little or no assistance. Caressing her blanket, a white-haired woman with dementia told Richard she was on her way to the airport to catch a plane. A man broke out in song with “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” I couldn’t help rolling my eyes in disbelief when Richard started telling other people to hurry, so we wouldn’t be late. With each turn of his wheelchair, I could feel his energy growing as we approached the big blue room, a place that made him feel good.

Exhilaration ignited as the show started. Accompanied by the soft thunder of drumbeats, speakers shared stories and poems in praise of their elders. Residents were given small instruments to play and were coaxed to join in singing lively songs. Dances from back in the day inspired some audience members to sway in their seats. For a soul-stirring while, the nursing home disappeared. We were all transported to a fabulous planet where euphoria was our oxygen. I watched a radiant Richard wave at people he recognized, holler when the emcee gave the signal, and clap like his life depended on it. And the quality of his life really did.”
© Frances Shani Parker

Read about who leaves hospice alive. Discharges can occur for several reasons:

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.


  1. This was so wonderful to read! Sometimes it only takes a little patience and a lot of talking to get some of our elderly to participate and feel like they once did many moons ago. I had this same kind of problem except my father in law had quit eating and drinking and I knew he was on his way out, but I hadn't given up on him even though he had! I made sure he knew that I loved him and didn't want him to go. So in desperation I brought a big banana(his favorite thing!) into the new facility where he had gone to die because he missed his departed wife, was refusing everything, and nothing physically was still wrong with him. I made sure it was a great big banana that he could see with his own eyes that I would need help eating it. After refusing me like he had been doing for the last 3 days, no water, no food, I BEGGED him to help me eat it, because I needed HIS help this time! Sure enough, I finally got him to take a bite and I took one after that, and then as I fed him the banana I pretended to eat it too, and he ended up eating the rest of it, and drank 4 oz. of milk, and took some sips of water! It was so wonderful to see him start caring again. That was 2 years ago!, and he is now 90 years old. I told him I am planning his 100th. birthday, and it put a big smile on his face. He just needed to know that I loved him and wanted to spend more time with him. There were other family members that visited him, but standing over his bed the night before crying my heart out to him and begging him to live SHOWED him, just how much that he would be missed so really, I think that this is why he finally changed his mind. The banana was his incentive, his reward! So happy endings to happen! :)

  2. That's a wonderful story, too. Thanks for sharing.