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. Many 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. Visit Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog and Frances Shani Parker's Website.


  1. David L. BickfordDecember 29, 2020

    I remember learning in my career in health care that the goal in interacting with people with dementia is to accept their reality and to be in the moment with them, not thinking we have to convince them of our version of "the real world". In their confusion and sometimes harrowing lives we need to accompany them and help them to be safe and secure. Often our body languae and facial expressions are interpreted more accurately than our words, so we need to also consider these reactions as well. Of course, they are just people with the same human needs as the rest of us.

    1. Happy New Year, Dave! Thanks for coming to our party with the perfect perspective. We are so glad you came and had a good time!