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Monday, December 31, 2018

Widowed Fathers Coping (Research, Video 1:30)



Alexandra was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer leading to a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and finally death, all within 16 months. At the time, she and Bertie were married with two children. Bertie, pictured above reading to his son and daughter, found himself thrust into a whole new parenting place joining the ranks of America’s estimated annual 20,000-30,000 widowed fathers raising dependent children. Maintaining jobs to provide for their families, many widowed fathers suppress their own needs while struggling in silence as everyday dads fostering well-being of their children.

Widowed fathers’ perspectives are important in determining positive end-of-life practices for families living with terminally ill loved ones. Their views help establish effective coping strategies after mothers have died leaving dependent children. This study, which focuses on those outcomes, included 344 men who identified themselves through an open-access educational website as widowed fathers. They all indicated that their spouses had died from cancer and that they were parenting dependent children. Participants completed surveys including their wives’ cancer history, end-of-life experiences, and their own depression and bereavement. Their views on how parental status may have influenced the end-of-life experiences of mothers with advanced cancer were emphasized. These were the results:

1) Fathers stated that 38% of mothers had not said goodbye to their children before death, and 26% were not at peace with dying.

2) Among participants, there were 90% reporting that their spouses were worried about the strain on their children at the end of life.

3) Fathers who reported clearer prognostic communication between their wives and physicians had lower depression and bereavement scores.

These data clarify the need for more family assistance related to terminal illness and death impacting widowed fathers and their children. Additional research and helpful resources such as books, videos, support groups, counseling, etc. can assist them further in untying knots of grief as they create their new normal.

1) The National Widowers Organization website provides a list of men’s support groups and other resources.

2) Single Fathers Due to Cancer is located at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. Dr. Donald Rosenstein, director of the UNC Comprehensive Cancer Support Program, started the support group a few years ago with his team, including Dr. Justin Yopp. They meet monthly with child care provided by students. The following video titled “Support for Single Fathers Due to Cancer” features Bruce Ham, a widowed father who shares his 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.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

New Year’s Eve Party in Long-Term Care (Alzheimer's Dementia Poem)

As a hospice volunteer in Detroit, MI nursing homes for many years, I learned a lot from quietly listening, observing and analyzing residents. They often had dementia, and I valued their thought-provoking interpretations of reality and unique forms of expression. 

I wrote the poem "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 right now. Today she 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 a new 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 her book 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.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Word Power (Video 2:00)


I love words. I crave their different sounds and meanings, the challenging way they confide in me or refuse to speak. I savor tasting their life and death spices as they yield to my interpretations, inspire me to fill a page with truth. I consider them friends and appreciate how they remind me of who I am, help me make sense of nonsense, surrender, evolve.

Words matter, and it’s not necessary to have a way with words to experience their power. When we think about their impact, we realize they can heal, celebrate, encourage, and make many positive changes. Without thoughtful consideration, they have the power to hurt, confuse, and destroy. Making words really matter comes with effort.

Ironically, this video below has very few words. It reminds us that the power of words depends, not on the quantity used, but on the energy, meaning, and motivation they bring. Consider the power of words. While actions may speak louder, words can still change lives.


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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 10, 2018

Alzheimer's Dementia Emotional Communication (Research)

Have you ever seen an uplifting movie or heard a passionate song that stirs up rousing emotions when you experience them years later? Those remaining feelings are wonderful scars that continue to heal us as we age. Maybe you can’t remember the names of the movie, the song, the actors, or the singers. But the feelings they generated in a sacred place inside you still resonate.

I thought about this powerful retention of feelings when I read Alzheimer’s research about emotions that people with the disease have long after memories that caused them have disappeared. A sample of 17 participants with probable Alzheimer’s disease and 17 healthy comparison participants underwent separate emotion inducing 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 memories 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 films lasted more than 30 minutes. This research reminds us that the emotional lives of individuals with Alzheimer's dementia can be greatly influenced by experiences, people, and places they may not recall later.

Caregivers and others must be sensitive to making pleasant emotional memories when managing, interpreting, and responding to behaviors of those with dementia. 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 or anybody, including them. People with dementia should not be greeted with a memory test (What’s my name?) they will probably fail. Names and relationships can easily be told to them.

Interactions with people who have dementia can refine our mastery of thinking outside the box by taking us to an Oz we can learn to respect. We should focus on spending quality time generating emotions that help them feel better and experience love even after our time with them has ended, and we have gone. And there is something in this quality time for us. We can leave with satisfying personal memories of pleasant emotions we inspired and can recall later, too.

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, December 3, 2018

End-of-Life Care: Doctors’ Political Views (Research, Video 3:01)




Are your primary care doctors Democrats or Republicans? Do you think their political affiliations will impact your end-of-life care? Political affiliations of people we know can often impact how we relate to them or how they relate to us. With so many biases already researched in healthcare, can politics also influence healthcare we receive during terminal illness?

This research compared the delivery of end-of-life care given to U.S. Medicare beneficiaries in a hospital by internal medicine doctors with Democrat versus Republican political affiliationsPatients included random samples of Medicare beneficiaries who were admitted with a general medical condition to a hospital and later died in a hospital. Patient demographics and clinical characteristics were similar between groups. The proportion of patients discharged from a hospital to hospice did not vary with doctors' political affiliations.

Conclusion: This research provided no evidence that doctors' political affiliations are associated with the intensity of end-of-life care received by hospitalized patients. Were you surprised? Why?

Regarding terminal illness, many doctors struggle with what to say to patients who are dying. This video shows how they can have these hard conversations with emphasis on four important questions they should ask patients.



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.