Monday, August 27, 2018

Frances Shani Parker: Black Aging Matters Webinar

American Psychological Association 

Black Aging Matters Webinar: How to Better Address Racism-Related Stress in African American Older Adults
(three presenters, audience questions)

Perspective of an Older African American Advocate (Excerpt)

My name is Frances Shani Parker. I was born and raised in the Jim Crow segregation of the South. I sat behind the sign for whites on the public bus when I wasn’t standing, drank water from the colored fountain, attended segregated schools, and endured America’s daily misery of racial injustice. Like many African Americans who remember being Negro, colored, and Black, every day was a reminder of our unimportance to the larger society. No doubt, these constant atrocities and indignities have taken a toll on us as we continue in our ongoing struggle to overcome.

Quality of healthcare always depends on the context in which it is given. Context includes all resources available, including biases of healthcare providers. Research studies indicate many healthcare providers have implicit bias in terms of positive attitudes toward white people and negative attitudes toward people of color. Systemic covert and overt racism against African Americans continues to flourish. Health disparities persist in large numbers year after year harming us, our families, our communities, our future generations, and ultimately the entire nation in loss of productivity and in economic burdens. This is not only a healthcare issue, but a moral issue.

A hospice volunteer, I know that many older people with dementia also have stored memories similar to mine that create shared connections with other older adults. I was moved to write this poem titled “Deeper Than Words” while watching Miss Loretta, my hospice patient, sleep. I thought about our shared African American history that bridged our communication beyond her dementia.
                                             Deeper Than Words
                                             By Frances Shani Parker

                                              The outside world arrives
                                              wearing my willing face.
                                              Toothless, your smile widens
                                              like a baby’s hungry for attention.
                                              Almost ninety-eight years old,
                                              your inner candle still glows.

                                              A hospice volunteer, I lean closer,
                                              talk into your listening left ear,
                                             “Today is Sunday, Miss Loretta.”
                                              My news drifts away like smoke.
                                              You stare at me through dying coals.
                                              Whatever I ask, you whisper, “Yes.”

                                              I stroke your age-softened arms
                                              while your hazed mind masters sleep.
                                             Watching you, I dream generations
                                             of women, black and strong, each one
                                             a book of sustaining stories
                                             about joy, pain, courage, survival.

                                            Within your warm brown frame,
                                            spirits from our common history linger.
                                            Aides say you have dementia,
                                            that you don’t know a word I say.
                                            Our language goes deeper than words.
                                            We speak to each other’s souls.

My hope is that audiences will increase their awareness of disparities, develop an urgency to eliminate them, especially if they are participants in causing them, and become more proactive in their own and others’ healthcare. I honor those who have died much faster than they should have, too often from causes that were preventable. I speak for those whose voices have been silenced.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Book: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.
Blog: Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

Monday, August 20, 2018

Can Patient-Centered Care Include a Stripper Performance? (Video 1:17)

Wikipedia defines stripper as a person whose occupation involves performing striptease in a public adult entertainment venue such as a strip club and who may be hired to perform at a bachelor party or other private event. Should a nursing home be considered as a private event place where a stripper should be allowed to perform if consenting residents vote to have one?

The nursing home in question was sued by the family of an elderly resident who the family said had partial dementia. The resident was photographed placing money in the male stripper’s shorts. According to management, a 16-member committee of residents voted to have the stripper come and perform there and that no residents were required to attend. Management said that the activity was not considered harmful.

The brief video below gives a general summary of what happened. While all comments are welcome, the main focus of this post is on the stripper performance being at the nursing home. The words “patient-centered ” are often used to describe a patient-provider partnership that considers decisions based on patients’ preferences within reason. My question to readers is, “Should residents at a nursing home who knowingly choose to have a stripper perform for them be allowed to do so?”

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, August 13, 2018

Hiding Pain from Others (Research, Hospice Poem)

Pain can be tricky when it comes to sharing the experience with others. Research on pain indicates various reasons patients are reluctant to share their feelings. Some patients will want to just be brave and handle it on their own. Others just don’t want to bother caregivers, or they think they wouldn’t understand even if they told them. Some patients can even be in denial about their own pain. But, during clinical encounters, patients may put themselves at greater risk for pain-related crises, use of hospice/palliative care on-call services, and in-patient transfers by not truthfully explaining their pain experience to those who can help.

Social workers and other palliative care providers should consistently and vigilantly inquire about how comfortable patients are about discussing their own pain. While pain management is a major focus of hospice care, I have witnessed and reported patients in pain during my hospice volunteer service. I visited Jim weekly during his final stages of painful cancer. An African American in his nineties, he yearned for peace. One day to help relieve his pain, I made a joyous breakthrough. When his pain came and his eyes were closed while I held his hand, he asked me if I were his wife. In my efforts to comfort him, I pretended to be his deceased wife whose name was Anne. I wrote this poem later about our being carefree and in love in old Detroit.

By Frances Shani Parker

His weary, tucked-in body
lies in a nursing home bed.
A black Gandhi, he yearns for peace.
His days are chains of mountains
formed by pressures of frustration.

I approach him like a helpless child,
wonder how to lift his spirits.
Eyes that have seen ninety years
squint tightly as daggers of pain
pierce his cancerous form.

Intermittent moans of distress
announce his internal battlefield.
A volunteer, I visit him weekly,
try to arm him with weapons
to increase his victories.

Talk, sing or hold his hand?
Never sure, I try them all.
Words inside he wants to say
are muttered sounds
I seldom understand.

His smile engulfs the room
when I speak of old Detroit.
Perhaps images from the past
recapture stolen pieces
of pleasure from his youth.

I tell him I must leave,
promise to return. Surprising me
in his clearest voice,
he struggles to respond,
“I appreciate your coming.”
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, August 6, 2018

Spirituality in the Illness Room (Research, Video 10:02)

When illnesses come, especially life-threatening ones like cancer and heart disease, many people rely on the support and comfort from sources in addition to medical healthcare. Coping skills related to spirituality with a Higher Power writing prescriptions empower many patients with a layer of strength to face each day with renewed joy in knowing their spirits are reinforced.

Research also confirms this additional patient empowerment. Spirituality research interviews were done with 10 cardiac survivors and 9 cancer survivors. Participants responded regarding how their life-transforming change occurred in the context of their life-threatening illness. Spirituality, meaning, and purpose were explained in several contexts such as connecting with family and friends, nature, art, music, and sometimes creating a relationship with God. These connections were how they coped with their illnesses.

Healthcare workers and other caregivers can create better plans of encouragement for patients when they understand and support the importance of spirituality in many people’s lives. These plans can include support groups for them that involve yoga, meditation, nature, music, prayer, or referral to spiritual or religious counselors.

The following video features a gospel song titled “Come on in the Room” sung by the Georgia Mass Choir founded by Rev. Milton Biggham. Reflecting the times and the power of spirituality, this church presentation is shared by the pastor and congregation in the context of a compelling story the pastor tells. The song lyrics are written below if you want to join in the joy. Welcome, the service has started. Come on in the room.

(Note: Click small x at top right of ad at beginning of video to block it.)


Come on in the Room

Chorus 1

Come on in the room.
Come on in the room.
Jesus is my doctor,
and He writes out all my prescriptions.
He gives me all my medicine in my room.

Chorus 2

There is joy, joy in the room.
Joy in the room.
Jesus is my doctor,
and He writes out all my prescriptions.
He gives me all of my medicine in my room.

Chorus 3

Joy in my room.
Joy in my room.
Jesus will meet you.
The Holy Ghost will greet you.
Joy, unspeakable joy in my room.

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.