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Friday, December 23, 2016

Aging Taste, Smell Loss (Research, Video 4:16)


How are your sweet and salty taste buds doing? Have you noticed a change in the way they function? Are familiar odors smelling a little funny? While respiratory infections or injuries, and even dental problems might be possible causes, you could be experiencing a loss due to aging. Loss of taste and smell affects many people over the age of 50. This decline is very important. For example, your health could be negatively impacted by causing you to eat fewer foods. What about your eating spoiled food and not knowing it? Even more dangerous would be a gas leak or a fire that you can’t detect.

Taste and smell research with older adults reveals that taste loss does not appear to make elderly people prefer stronger flavors. But nutrition surveys have pointed to a greater consumption of sweet and salty foods. Apparently, real-life eating habits are also influenced by other social and psychological factors. Dietary strategies that can prevent the consequences of unhealthy eating habits by older adults should be examined more.

Loss of taste and smell are closely connected. You might be surprised by how the taste of foods disappears when you pinch your nose closed before you put them into your mouth. Most food flavors come from our ability to smell them, and when we do, something wonderful can happen. Think of the many memories certain tastes and smells bring to mind. Nothing can replace those holiday aromas or pleasing, seductive scents of particular people remembered with affection.

In this CBS video, reporter Seth Doane shares information on the loss of taste and smell and what science is doing about it.


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 5, 2016

Holiday Health Alert (Research, Older Adult Video 3:57)


Christmas and Independence Day are associated with increased heart failure emergency admissions immediately following these holidays? Older adults are taken to the hospital the most during these times. During the winter months, these emergencies actually peak around the holiday season. Major sporting events and intense encounters also play a role.

This information is the result of research involving patients with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure at the Einstein Medical Center over a 10-year period between January 1 and December 31. Comparisons were made between the rates of heart failure admissions on the holiday, 4 days following the holiday and the rest of the month for 5 specific days: Christmas day, New Year's day, Independence day, Thanksgiving day and Super Bowl Sunday.

The study included 22,727 heart failure admissions. Results indicated a significant increase in daily heart failure admissions following Independence day and Christmas day when compared to the rest of the month. All holidays apart from Super Bowl Sunday demonstrated lower admission rates on the holiday compared to the rest of the month.

What are some factors that could cause these findings?
1)    Overeating on holidays
2)    Emotional stressors
3)    Less exercise
4)    Postponed medical appointments due to the holidays

Seriously, who wants to experience an emergency room visit during or after the holidays? Caregivers near and far should be especially vigilant in evaluating the health of older adults during the holidays. On Good Morning Maryland @ 9, Dr. Alicia Arbaje from Johns Hopkins' School of Medicine explains details of maintaining healthy holidays for older adults.



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 28, 2016

Holiday Love Wishes After Death (Video 3:30)


Dying from ovarian cancer a few years ago, Brenda Schmitz had a lot on her mind. A wife and mother of four young boys, she envisioned leaving her family and a few others something very special that would enhance their lives and memories of her love for them in a most surprising manner. Her idea focused on a letter including her final wishes, a letter that was not like any most people normally write or receive. Brenda’s written expressions were to be delivered to a radio station after she died. Specific instructions indicated the letter could not be sent until something very special took place. 

Experience the real reason for the holiday season in “I Love You Whoever You Are,” Brenda’s heartwarming story about her unique end-of-life wishes.


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.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Power of Thank You (Gratitude Research, Video 3:27)

Thank you. We often say these words when we are moved by the virtue of others extending positive impressions to us. Thank you. We enjoy receiving these words disguised as grateful hugs that hold us so tightly we feel ribs of joy press against our essence. Psychologists call our declarations of gratitude "other-praising emotions" that build bridges connecting us to people and experiences that promote good feelings. As thankful people praising our benefactors, we create something glorius and special together, something akin to a soul-smacking kiss.

While it may seem obvious that gratitude has powerful feel-good benefits, considerable scientific research on gratitude also confirms, not only the goodness generated by our expressions of appreciation, but also our benefactors' fond sentiments regarding our shared response. Studies also report that an attitude of gratitude can improve our health. When people were asked to write five things for which they were grateful during a week, improvements in their well-being were evident in test results. These are some of the benefits illustrating the power of thank you:

1.    Better health
2.    Sounder sleep
3.    More satisfaction with life
4.    Kinder behavior

An added research bonus reports that the more we show appreciation for our blessings, the more blessings we receive. In this video, New York Times science columnist John Tierney joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss more health benefits of giving thanks and various ways to cultivate gratitude in our lives. Thank you!




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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Unclaimed Dead: Description, Ritual, Disposal (Research, Video 1:56)

Sometimes people die, and no one steps up to claim their remains. Perhaps the next of kin could not be found. Maybe they were found, but could not or would not take the responsibility for various reasons. Some bodies are donated to science, but many are not. Who are these bodies that may never receive an earthly send-off? In Macon, Indiana the statistics on unclaimed bodies vs. claimed bodies reported this:

1) The unclaimed dead were disproportionately male, slightly more likely to be Black, younger at death, and dead from natural causes.
2) They had unknown marital status and were equally likely as not to have next of kin.
3) Instead of dying in a hospital, they died from external causes, and they were subject to autopsy.
4) Nearly half of the unclaimed bodies had next of kin who did not claim them; the other half had no identifiable next of kin.
5) Most unclaimed bodies were identified by means of fingerprints or DNA.

What are medical examiners around the country doing as unclaimed bodies accumulate at morgues? Are bodies ever honored with death rituals? What about disposal of these remains? This is how it’s done in Detroit, Michigan.


A few years ago in Detroit, Michigan, I attended a death ritual service including a small community of people who meet monthly at a local funeral home where the morgue sends names and birthdates of unclaimed bodies. Anyone can attend. The day I participated, we paid our respects to 28 people. Together we engaged in a moving ritual honoring the unclaimed deceased. 

The service included heartfelt words, music, printed programs, American flags, candles, and beautiful white roses representing each deceased honoree. As the name and birthdate of each deceased person was read, our enthusiastic response of “May he/she rest in peace” felt exhilarating and empowering, knowing our presence served as testimony to their lives. We sang in celebration of this momentous occasion. Each honoree had been claimed.

In this video, Albert Samuels of the Detroit Wayne County medical examiner’s office, Betsy Deak of Perry Funeral Home, and Anthony Tocco of Knollwood Memorial Park explain how their organizations respond to honoring unclaimed bodies.




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

Monday, November 7, 2016

Women Veterans’ Military Sexual Assaults (Research, Video 5:07)


Sexual trauma experienced by women serving in the U.S. military is a topic many people avoid. It’s much easier to speak only in positive terms about the military while overlooking the horrendous injustices perpetrated within. Abuse covers a range of negative behaviors, but most of the research, treatment, and outreach are focused on sexual assaults and the experiences of individuals serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Protect Our Defenders Foundation is a human rights organization that honors, supports, and gives voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been raped or sexually assaulted by fellow service members.

This research on women veterans’ military sexual trauma is based on reports by women who described, not only their military sexual assaults, but also barriers to reporting incidents of sexual misconduct and sexual assault, and the challenges they faced when seeking care. Research data revealed these results:

1)   Out of 52 female veterans, most (90%) were subjected to at least one form of military sexual trauma.

2)   These included eight (15%) who attempted to report the incident(s).

3)   Over half of the assailants who assaulted them were of a higher rank than the survivors.

4)   The majority of veterans remained silent due to lack of options to report the status of the perpetrators and fear of retaliation.

Nineteen year-old Army PFC LaVena Johnson was found dead on a military base in Balad, Iraq. The U.S. Army ruled Lavena's death a suicide, but an autopsy report and photographs revealed Johnson had a broken nose, black eye, loose teeth, burns from a corrosive chemical on her genitals, and a gunshot wound that seemed inconsistent with suicide. In this video, LaVena's father, John Johnson, shares his family's fight to get answers from the military about his daughter's death.




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, October 31, 2016

Animal Hospice (Veterinary Research, Video: 3:25)


Life is a journey. Death comes when it comes. Our animal friends are no exceptions. That’s why veterinary hospice is welcomed by many loved ones for their pets during their end-of-life journeys. Interest in hospice care for animals continues to increase. Unfortunately, research confirms that there is still a lack of veterinary hospice and palliative care research to guide more clinicians in this field. More contributions from veterinary institutions are needed to further progress in veterinary hospice.

Like humans, animals also experience a need for pain reduction and anxiety during this time. Having a veterinarian’s involvement can rule out any health issues that may not be diagnosed. Comfortable surroundings, assistance with possible mobility, and incontinence issues are also important considerations. It may be necessary to observe and record changes in a pet’s behavior that cause concern. As with humans, various ways of coping with grief should also be explored. In this video, Dr. Dani is featured in a home hospice visit for a sweet dog named Fiona.



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, October 24, 2016

Halloween Safety for Older Adults, Dementia (Video 3:04)

For many older adults, experiencing Halloween traditions can be a fearful and confusing time. Scary costumes, loud noises, strangers’ visits, and demands for candy may seem like innocent fun to trick or treaters. But some vulnerable older adults may feel uncomfortable with the ongoing disruptions, especially those who live alone. Adults with dementia may have even more difficulty trying to understand what is going on. In addition, caregivers who are eager to be a part of the festivities may underestimate the risks involved with opening their doors to strangers.

The following are a few Halloween safety tips to keep in mind:

1)   Have a responsible adult available to console vulnerable older adults, if needed, even if they are not participating in the festivities.

2)   Manage any Halloween activities, especially if the person needing help will participate in greeting guests or giving out treats at the door.

3)   Leave lights on even if the door will not be answered.

4)   Maintain a peaceful atmosphere as much as possible.

5)   Keep trick or treaters outside at all times.

6)   Post a sign stating when all treats are gone.

If you have other suggestions for making Halloween safe for older adults or anyone with dementia, please mention them in the comments. In this KSHB news video, Matt Latham from the Visiting Angels organization shares tips on improving older adult Halloween safety.



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, October 17, 2016

Down Syndrome: Older Adult Longevity, Health Risks (Alzheimer's Video 1:48)


Down syndrome is usually not associated with older adults. The life expectancy of those living with this condition was only age 25 in 1983. Fortunately, the National Down Syndrome Society has been advocating for people with Down syndrome since 1979. Life expectancy seems to be increasing so well, there have been several contenders for the title of oldest person alive with Down syndrome. In 2008, Kenny Cridge was officially named the world’s oldest living man with Down syndrome by Guinness World Records officials, who presented him with a certificate. Guinness no longer keeps records on Down syndrome because it is a disability. According to the UK March 2016 issue of Gazette Live news, Joe Sanderson (pictured above) at age 80 is the world's oldest living man with Down syndrome. Back when he was born, he wasn’t expected to live past 21. 

About 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born annually in America. Older women have an increased risk of having a Down syndrome baby. Because there are three kinds of Down syndrome, people who have it may vary with unique characteristics in their appearance. This may include small stature, slanted eyes, low muscle tone, flat facial features, and a deep crease across the center of their palms. They all have an extra portion of chromosome 21 that alters their development.

People with Down syndrome are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Early signs such as changes in overall function, personality, and behavior may be more common than memory loss and forgetfulness. Other high medical risks are heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. Because treatment of these conditions has improved through the years, Down syndrome life expectancy has increased to age 60 today as survivors contribute to society in meaningful ways. 

This video explains the connection between Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease.



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.