Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New Year’s Eve Party, Alzheimer’s Dementia Poem

Being in the moment can bring great awareness. As a hospice volunteer in Detroit nursing homes, I learned a lot from quietly listening, observing and analyzing. Many residents had dementia, and I valued their thought-provoking interpretations of reality and unique forms of expression. I wrote Mealtime Party after participating in numerous mealtimes and parties with residents. This carefree poem includes combinations of actual scenarios that took place. What do I know for sure? I know I visited weekly an Oz I respected and became a better person. Join Lurania and her nursing home friends. Today, Lurania gives someone else her name and hosts an imaginary party for herself.

     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.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

Friday, December 18, 2015

Online Dating: Older Adults Are Picky (Research, Video 2:30)

Okay, let's get right down to it. Older women are at a disadvantage when it comes to online dating. Not only are there fewer men alive in their age group, many of the living ones want younger women. If you think this makes them desperate to marry whatever they can get, you don't know jack about older women. While they may still be open to the possibility of marriage, many cherish their lifestyles free of various responsibilities.

Are older dating adults more selective about whom they date than younger adults? They actually are, and their Internet dating profiles prove it. Research of online dating profiles for 100 older adults and 100 younger adults reveal that older adults and especially older women were more selective than younger adults when it came to the age, race, religion, income, and even height of a prospective dating partner. Surprisingly, older adults also don’t mind traveling substantially farther than younger adults to meet the loves of their lives. Sure, they want love, but they don’t want just anybody. Of course, the younger adults may have more options because they can get around more.

Pat Walsh, a widow who was in her 70’s, found her second chance at love at an online dating service. The website was having a special sale with no charge for three months. What luck! And along came Bill! Here’s their fantastic love 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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dementia, Alzheimer’s Doll Therapy: Beneficial or Demeaning? (Research, Story)

More and more people with dementia are being gifted with dolls and stuffed animals. While some caregivers find doll therapy rewarding for those with dementia and helpful in making positive connections, others say it is demeaning because it treats adults like children or overshadows real issues that need to be addressed.

Scientific research on doll therapy can put these worries to rest. People with dementia, like most of us, display a wide range of emotions. Through the years, caregivers have used a variety of ways, including chemical restraints, to channel agitated behaviors of persons with dementia. But baby doll therapy has proven to be one way that receives a lot of attention.

For too long, there was no protocol or official record of scientific experimentation on the success of doll therapy. That’s how the implementation of research protocol of doll therapy began for 16 residents at a dementia care center. Researchers measured the impact of the dolls on six areas of each resident’s behavior and their reactions to the doll. These are the results:

1)  Participants had an increase in level of happiness,
     activity/liveliness, interaction with staff and others, and ease of giving care.
2)  There was a reduction in the level of anxiety.
3)  The increase in happiness was a statistically significant outcome.  Baby doll therapy is an effective nonpharmacological approach  for improving the well-being of patients with moderate to  severe dementia.

As a hospice volunteer I had observed these positive results many times in various Detroit nursing homes. Here’s a true story (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried) about an experience with a resident named Susan and her baby doll:

“Hi, Susan, I see you’re taking your baby with you to dinner,” I said to a woman wearing a high wattage smile that her baldheaded “baby” inherited.
“Well, I want to take my baby out more. Everybody likes her, you know, especially me. She told me she was hungry,” she responded.
“What’s your baby’s name?” I asked, exploring her reality.
She and the doll stared at each other, grinning as if they shared secrets from ancient times. And maybe they did. Susan looked at me, pointed to her doll baby and said, “She’ll tell you her name tomorrow when you come back with cookies.”

© Excerpt above 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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Afterlife: Patients’ Cultural Beliefs (Research, Video 2:27)

I asked one of my hospice patients what she thought happened after death. She responded, “Nothing. Dead people are out of trouble, and we’re still in it.” Death has different meanings for different people. Some may choose how to respond based on cultural influences. Of course, basic cultural influences can differ even within a particular cultural group. Patients and their loved ones may want to share these beliefs with healthcare caregivers, so they can better understand their personal death experiences. Their responses to patients can be very helpful to patients.

This research on the soul and afterlife was done from a cultural perspective with older adult Mexican American (MA), European American (EA), and African American (AA) participants.

These were the results:

1)  Most participants said that the soul lives on after physical death, leaves the body immediately at death, and eventually reaches heaven.
2)  Many participants also said death ends physical suffering.
3)  More AAs than MAs or EAs said that they believed that the soul after physical death exists in the world or interacts with the living.
4)   In every ethnic group, more women than men said they believed that the soul exists in the 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.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Visiting Someone With Alzheimer’s: Emotions Without Memories (Research)

During my years as a hospice volunteer in nursing homes, I have spent a lot of time with people who had Alzheimer’s disease. It was not unusual for me to sit at a lunchroom table for eight and be the only one there without Alzheimer’s. I not only learned a lot from them, I became a better person as a direct result of my observations and our unique exchanges. Without realizing it, they refined my mastery of thinking outside the box by taking me weekly to an Oz I respected. One thing I know for sure is that the mind is complex, unpredictable, and closely connected to quality of life.

I thought about this when I read Alzheimer’s research about emotions that people with the disease have long after memories that caused those feelings have disappeared. A sample of 17 participants with probable Alzheimer’s disease and 17 healthy comparison participants underwent separate emotion induction procedures in which they watched film clips. The clips were intended to induce feelings of sadness or happiness. An evaluation of the emotions later revealed that participants with Alzheimer’s had severely impaired memory of both the sad and happy films. But they continued to report high levels of persisting sadness and happiness beyond their memory of the actual films. The sadness associated with the sad films lasted more than 30 minutes.

This research reminds us that the emotional lives of individuals with Alzheimer's can be greatly influenced by experiences, people, and places they do not recall. Caregivers and others must be sensitive to this when managing, interpreting, and responding to behaviors of those with Alzheimer’s. Loved ones who avoid visiting them because “She doesn’t know who I am” or “I can’t deal with his confusion” must be mindful that the purpose of their presence has nothing to do with anyone's ability to remember anything, including them. Visits should be focused on spending quality time generating emotions that help those with the disease feel better, knowing they are loved even after the visit has ended. Visitors can leave with satisfying personal memories of pleasant emotions they inspired.

The Alzheimer's Association website offers supportive communication tips and techniques for successful visits. Included are activities to do together and suggestions on how to respond to various behaviors. For many other services, a 24/7 Helpline is available at 1-800-272-3900.

1) Honoring a Nun Who Has Alzheimer's Dementia

You can read my tribute at the link below to a nun who positively impacted my life as a child and later developed and died from Alzheimer’s disease:

2) Children Learn About Dementia, Alzheimer's: School, Family Support (Video 3:51)

An educator who has been actively involved with introducing elementary-middle school children to the nursing home world and dementia for many years, I have always been impressed with the sensitive ways they embrace knowledge about this disease. Visit the link below to learn more about this form of teaching-learning called service-learning.

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, November 16, 2015

Your Person-Centered Holidays

Through the years, holidays often become associated with particular traditions that may include familiar people, places, rituals, foods, music, and more. It is easy to internalize that if all or most of these components are not present, then your holidays are lacking, not whole, certainly not person-centered. These feelings can lead to depression, helplessness about too many of your needs not being met.

Particularly troubling for some may be the adjustment to holiday customs after loved ones have died. In cases where memories remind you of traditions that are difficult to do without deceased loved ones, you may want to consider other ways you can better embrace the holidays. One option is to create new holiday practices. If holidays were celebrated as a family, new traditions can be planned as a family with input open to everyone. This will present opportunities to discuss feelings about the deceased and possibly include activities in the new traditions that commemorate the deceased in an uplifting manner. One example could be a memorial that adds pleasure to holidays in the future.

If you are a caregiver, be sure to consider your own needs in addition to your patient's needs. With a focus on the positive, you can create a workable plan to have holidays as stress-free as possible. This can be done by including the essentials of what you hope to accomplish and eliminating activities that add more worry and that are not really needed. You should encourage assistance from others and be mindful of balance in your own life. AARP suggests 10 holiday tips especially for caregivers.

Whatever situations the holidays bring, there is no one way of participation for everyone. There are different ways that work well for different people. Your choices should be respected and not judged negatively because they are not considered the norm. For those of you who find the holidays stressful, phony, or too commercial, you may want to redirect your holiday focus and participate in ways that are calmer and more meaningful to you. One example could be volunteering at places where you can be helpful to others.You may want to celebrate alone or socialize with one or two friends. Another choice could be taking a trip to a location you love or want to experience for the first time.

Whether celebrating the holidays alone, with others, or not at all, you should follow your heart with efforts to meet your own needs within the framework of your particular situation. Person-centered holidays can include activities that may or may not have anything to do with the holidays at all, but everything to do with your own quality of life. 

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.