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Monday, April 6, 2020

A Volunteer's Calling (Poem)

                                                    
“Defining Moments” is a poem I wrote after a series of events led to my becoming a hospice volunteer. Hospice volunteering crept up on me unnoticed during the HIV-AIDS pandemic that was one of the world’s most serious public health challenges. Early in the 1980's, the Centers for Disease Control reported five cases of AIDS in young homosexual men in Los Angeles, California. By 1994, AIDS had become the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25 to 44.

Before the 1990's, I was not attracted to being actively involved in the healthcare field. I also wasn't skilled in caregiving at a personal level, sometimes feeling awkward around sick people in general. Nobody is more surprised than yours truly that I have been a satisfied hospice volunteer over 20 years involved with bedside caregiving in nursing homes, eldercare consulting, authoring a book, and eldercare blogging. You can read about my compelling transformation that includes a video in this LinkedIn article titled "Hospice Volunteer? No Thanks, Not Me!" (Video 3:25).

“Defining Moments” is one of 16 original poems at the end of each chapter of my book titled Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes. Several readers have told me that “Defining Moments” resonates with them when they read it. As a writer, I appreciate knowing when something I have written connects with other people. But I was especially surprised one day when a man I did not know well had actually memorized the entire poem and approached me while reciting it aloud. This was followed by his sharing a heartfelt explanation of a defining moment in his own life. Perhaps this poem will remind you of a defining moment in your life when past met future.

Defining Moments

They come without warning,
grab us in chokeholds of change,
fling us into outer space
where past meets future.
In this realm resonating
with first-time knowledge,
we awaken wide-eyed,
infused with wisdom
to turn around, stand still
or move forward with clarity.
No matter how they smack,
stroke, lift, drop, push, kiss
or kick us to get our attention,
when they finish their mission,
we are permanently scarred.

© Frances Shani Parker

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.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Amazing Grace and Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic (Video 2:30)


I greet you today during troubling times that I could not have imagined. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is creating a disastrous path of global pain that currently has no ending date. 

Many are particularly vulnerable to the disease and its accompanying hardships. Let us make every effort to take care of ourselves and others whenever we can. Fear, confusion, scarcity, ignorance, and daily living restrictions impact everyone. Condolences of sympathy are sent to families of those who have died.

Music is often consoling and empowering during times like this. When we are open spiritually, an inspiring song can often strengthen our higher selves in the process of overcoming. The video below offers that encouragement. Let us tap into that amazing grace as our journey continues.


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, March 16, 2020

Older Adult Technology Use (Research, Video 3:14)



I remember when I had to dial a phone number to access the Internet. Technology has come a mighty long way. My early computers all had names, and I vented my frustrations to them personally when they harassed me daily with their complicated maneuvers. Sapphire, an overbearing laptop of a woman loved, hated, and tormented me with a vengeance that forced me to write poems about our ongoing squabbles. With all these haunting memories, however, I still must confess that mastering the basics and more has been one of the best things I have ever done and continue to do. 

Every day, I see important examples of how I would have been left behind if I had not taken advantage of opportunities to navigate my way on the Internet, even basically. When TV news reporters make comments about going “to our website for more information" about disaster assistance, product recalls, high crime and accident locations, etc., I am reminded of all the people who are unable to receive these services on their own and probably worry about what they are missing. 

Research on older adults reports that those who continue using the Internet are more likely to gain significant cognitive improvement. Even though numerous public facilities offer free or inexpensive technology classes for using computers, smart phones, etc., too many older adults have refused to try them or have given up by saying, “I don’t do all that computer stuff. It’s just too confusing.”
Research results conclude that "older adults who continue using the Internet were more likely to gain significant cognitive gains and lower cognitive loss. Promoting Internet use in older adults can help a strategy for cognitive stimulation in older adults."


The following video shares important statistics on how older adults use technology to meet and expand their information needs:

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, March 2, 2020

Older Adult LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Issues (Research, Video 3:30)


There is no question that older adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) belong to a population subjected often to adverse discrimination in society and experience unique health needs. Approximately 2.7 million U.S. older adults self-identify as being members of this population. Many feel unsafe revealing their sexual orientation and may not be willing to reveal their sexual orientation to their medical providers. Institutions that focus on providing them with support must implement more staff development and dissemination of homophobia training and policy changes that positively impact older adult LGBT quality of life.

A research study was done to increase understanding of the experiences and needs of older LGBT adults when accessing healthcare. Results of the study included three major themes. The themes were "Outness," "Things are Different Now," and "Additional Resources." These themes describe participants comfort with being "out," how treatment they received changed over time, and needed services or other options from the community. Healthcare providers must be prepared to create trusting relationships with these individuals to deliver truly comprehensive care.

Aging adds another layer of concerns for those in the older adult LGBT community. Like millions of others in this quickly expanding population, they must think about where and how they will live. This includes serious concerns about discrimination and bullying targeting them in senior communities. This video features LGBTsenior issues related to discrimination in long-term care 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

Monday, February 24, 2020

Good Death Views: Patients, Relatives, Healthcare Providers (Research, Video 1:40)

Improving quality of life should be an ongoing goal, even as death approaches. While many embrace thoughts of having a good death, what exactly do they mean at personal levels? What do patients, relatives, general practitioners, and other healthcare providers mean when they speak of dying in a good way when recovery is no longer available? The following research on a good death explains their responses.

Research participants were asked how important patients, close relatives, and healthcare providers considered 11 core themes in defining a good death. Specific questionnaires were used for each group and distributed in the working area of a palliative care network with the cooperation of five local quality groups, two nursing homes, and two groups of home care nurses. Data were analyzed. The following results were reported:

     1. All groups believed a pain-free death was most significant.

     2. General practitioners, nurses, patients, and close relatives valued the       following themes: support of family, respect for patient as an individual, being able to say goodbye, and euthanasia in case of unbearable suffering.

     3. Major differences between general practitioners and nurses deserve      attention because patients and family members expect that healthcare providers will work together as a team.

What about you and your own personal expectations of a good death beyond being pain-free? In this video, several people share their opinions on what a good death means to them:


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, February 17, 2020

Mardi Gras Celebration with Older Adult Seniors (Video 3:36)

Mardi Gras celebrations are common in older adult communities around the world. It's a great time for fantasy, dancing, food and fun! Through the years, I have had the good fortune of witnessing entertaining Mardi Gras merriment enhancing quality of life. I store all my Mardi Gras memories in a marvelous, mental, treasure chest painted with purple, green and gold brush strokes, the official colors of Mardi Gras. I always smile when I look inside. No doubt, amused older adults will be smiling this Mardi Gras 2020 and many Mardi Gras seasons to come.

Older adults celebrating this world-famous Carnival season often have numerous parades, balls, and parties starting on January 6th. In many places, parades are held during the day and at night until the biggest celebration on Mardi Gras day. Mardi Gras day, known also as “Fat Tuesday,” falls on the day before the Christian season of Lent starts. It can fall on any Tuesday between February 3rd and March 9th. These are upcoming Mardi Gras dates:

February 25, 2020
February 16, 2021
March 1, 2022
February 21, 2023
February 13, 2024
March 4, 2025
February 17, 2026
February 9, 2027

Featured on my blog this year in the video below is “Dancing with the Seniors Mardi Gras Edition” presented by Nexion Health affiliates, New Iberia Manor South, Village Creek Rehabilitation Nursing Center, and Reliant Rehabilitation. Join them in a wonderful Mardi Gras celebration. The party has already started!



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, February 11, 2020

Friendships, Stereotypes (Older Adult Research, Video 1:51)

Children as young as three years old have already started internalizing negative stereotypes about aging. A quick review of media portrayals of older adults and comments from people about them are great teachers for young impressionable minds. A greater problem, however, is that too many of the negative stereotypes young people internalize can stay with them throughout their own aging and unconsciously become embedded in their own lifestyles.

A common stereotype about aging is the portrayal of older adults as being lonely with little social support. Can expectations about aging impact friendships? Research focused on the relationship between positive aging expectations and later life friendships was done to explore these connections. This study examined questionnaire data from the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial, a randomized volunteer intervention for adults aged 60 years and older. Associations between expectations about aging and different types of social support were tested with these results:

1) Participants with more positive expectations at baseline increased their number of friends two years later and had greater overall perceived support availability twelve months later.

2) Only participants with at least average perceived support availability at baseline showed an association between expectations and later support availability.

These results are the first to link overall positive expectations regarding aging to the social domain. They confirm that overall expectations regarding aging can impact older adults, not only physically and cognitively, but also socially.

Shouldn’t we all just affirm our own healthy aging by promoting positive images about ourselves? Shouldn’t we just live our best lives and not limit ourselves based on our age numbers? Meet Millie and Evelyn who met at the retirement home where they live and quickly became best friends. In this video, they talk about the importance of friendships as they age.




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, February 4, 2020

Rosa Parks and the Omen Poem by Frances Shani Parker

      
A former Detroit Public Schools administrator at Rosa Parks Middle School in Michigan, I was fortunate to have spent time with Rosa Parks when she visited our school.

Rosa Parks and the Omen
By Frances Shani Parker

Greatness arrived when Rosa Parks
visited her namesake school.
I hung up her coat, knelt to remove
snow-covered boots from feet
that had walked, marched, scattered
footprints over racial injustice.
We laughed at our similar names
when she mistakenly signed her photo
“To Frances Parks,” not Frances Parker.
I felt an omen of kinship between us.

Her arrest for remaining in a bus seat
designated by law for white people
gave rise to the civil rights movement.
Years later, my own Detroit arrest
forced the opening of district centers
for students left after school hours.
When colleagues called me Rosa Parks,
my heart warmed with cherished
memories of a historic woman’s photo
with an omen of kinship that came true.

Passage of time brings slow endings.
I still encounter white privilege practices,
judgment through negative stereotypes,
ongoing news of systemic racial bias
in this divided country many call great.
But I remember proudly a warrior woman
who defended our human dignity
on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.
I honor her commitment, her courage,
her kinship with America’s oppressed.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913–2005) became an American pioneer of the civil rights movement when she was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. After decades of mass protests, bus segregation and related injustices were ruled unconstitutional. Rosa Parks received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

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, January 20, 2020

Hospice Volunteer Success Secrets




Hospice Volunteer Success Secrets by Frances Shani Parker, Author of 

1)   Remember why you serve.

There’s a reason you feel compelled to enhance lives of the terminally ill. Cherish that inspiration. Move forward committed to an amazing and rewarding healthcare adventure.

2)   Believe it’s all win-win.

Providing end-of-life service is a privilege, not a calling to be a savior. You and those you support come together in relationships of mutual healing and growth. Honor your win-win journey.

3)   Be present.

By all means, show up. But be present with patients after you arrive. Evaluate appearances, behaviors, surroundings, and interactions with others. Listen with your heart. Even silence speaks. Really try to understand life from their perspectives. Focus on advocacy for improving their quality of life.

4)   Try other doors.

Patients will have challenges such as dementia that may not respond to your usual front-door communication. Try other doors and even windows. Obstacles are enrichment opportunities in your partnerships with patients. Touch, music, pictures, stories, and fantasies are a few entry points. Let patients help you navigate your way into their world.

5)   Know your piece in the puzzle.

Adherence to rules of protocol and professional ethics should be routine. Be aware of boundaries such as confidentiality regarding yourself, your patients, and their loved ones. Follow guidelines of your hospice organization, and seek help when needed.

6)   Untie your knots.

There may be times of doubt, confusion, sadness, and guilt. These are normal knots of the caregiving process. Untie them by seeking support for your total well-being. Maintain proper rest, nutrition, exercise, and balance in your life. Do your best. Don’t be surprised when you discover reasons to kiss yourself.

7)   Spread the word.

Be knowledgeable about hospice and palliative care. Share information so others can benefit from these specialized areas of healthcare. Encourage involvement in hospice and palliative care career and service activities.

8)   Pick up a turtle.

If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know somebody helped to put it there. Be on the lookout for turtles aiming for fence posts. Be a role model for other volunteers. Participate in organizations, discussion groups, workshops, and conferences where you can share best practices while learning new ideas.
   
9)   Write death sentences.

Death will come no matter how often you avoid it or wrestle it to the ground. Have your advance directives, finances, and property in legal order. Urge others to do the same. Don’t burden loved ones later with important decisions you can record now. As you unfasten yourself from this life, be satisfied knowing your death sentences will be carried out according to your wishes.
  
10)  Expect rainbow smiles.

Rainbow smiles hug you so tightly you can feel ribs of joy press against your essence. Hospice volunteering provides ongoing moments for you to positively impact lives. When you make those connections happen, rainbow smiles will come.

© Frances Shani Parker

You can read about my personal journey in becoming a hospice volunteer without realizing I was one here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hospice-volunteer-me-frances-shani-parker?trk=mp-author-card

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Life Lesson From Dogs to Humans (Video 3:49)

A hospice volunteer over 20 years, I am featuring this post about dogs because it resonates on so many levels with human lives. We all die, but do we really strive to live life to the fullest? This post about mostly elderly, ill, rescued dogs shows us how to enjoy life. The dogs are showcased in a heartwarming video, actually a “dogumentary,” titled "Seven Days with Seven Dogs." Their story mesmerizes with a universal message for humans who are terminally ill, in good health, elderly or young.
Living at a refuge similar to a canine nursing home, the dogs struggle with health challenges ranging from deafness, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, heart murmur, and a lymphatic mass on one “hospice” dog predicted to live only a few more weeks. They experience serious life challenges just like humans do. The dogs' caregivers decide it is high time these canine seniors smell the roses we humans often forget to smell. Taking all the dogs on an adventurous trip to dog-friendly locations immersed in nature becomes a fantastic solution. We humans must search the wells of ourselves to find our own purposes and pleasures.

Regarding eldercare, this "dogumentary" encourages quality caregiving that should take place with ill, older adult humans, many who have supported others unconditionally for years. For seven days, join this soul-stirring, dog-centered trip where floral fragrances permeate the air, where wounded spirits soar, and where we are all reminded at personal levels that the best things in life are not things. Let's enjoy ourselves! Have some fun! 
It’s later than we think.


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

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

End-of-Life, Afterlife Views (Research, Video 2:28)

Older adults have several perspectives regarding life after the death of a loved one. Their perspectives can be used by nurses to improve their insights regarding the care they give hospice patients. End-of-life research on how the death of a significant other influenced older adults' perspectives about their own end-of-life is helpful. 

This research involved 15 older adults residing in a continuing care retirement community. Their challenges in losing a loved one revealed these four themes:
1)    Peacefully-slip away with no heroics
2)    Familiarity-making plans that stick
3)    Tying up loose ends-what's left to do
4)    Accepting-my time is up.

This study implies that nurses with medical providers should openly discuss with older adults their end-of-life concerns and care desired.

Curious about what my own hospice patient’s perspective was about life beyond death, I asked her about that and included our conversation in my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer inUrban Nursing Homes. I refer to life after death as the Other Side of Through.

Many people believe in life after death. For them, death is a comma, a pause proceeded by a dash into another dimension of life. Others say that life as we know it while living is all there is to existence. They consider death to be a period at the end of the final sentence in their life stories.

One day, my patient named Mabel (pseudonym) received a birthday card from her church members. This led to an interesting conversation about life after death.

“Were you active in your church?” I asked.

“Well, not too much. I helped out with a few fundraising activities like the annual church bazaar. I usually worked at the ticket booth. I didn’t want to be too active because I have my own personal views about religion. I don’t see religion the way most of my church people see it, so I stayed kind of low-key. Religion is fine, but I don’t believe in God. I only believe in Jesus.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Jesus was a person in real life. People saw him and wrote down what he did and what he said as part of history. I know that Jesus existed. He was right there walking and talking in front of people. Nobody can deny that. But God is different. Nobody has really seen him. Nobody knows how he looks or even what he is. That’s why I don’t believe in God. But I definitely believe in my Jesus.”

“What about heaven, Mabel? What do you think of that?”

“If there is no God, then there is no heaven. It wouldn’t make sense to have a heaven without God. That’s how I see it.”

“What do you think happens after people die?”

“What do I think happens? Nothing. They get buried, and their problems are over. Their problems end, and ours continue.”

© Frances Shani Parker

Mabel’s belief about life after death is one of numerous opinions that people have. Many have thought about the possibility of immortality. They connect it with a soul, reward, and punishment. Some have lived their lives according to those beliefs. For those who believe in an afterlife, there is often a spiritual motivation linked with nature’s cycles of birth and death. They embrace the mystery with faith and decide there is no spiritual death, only a change in their immortal soul’s experience.

Of course, there are others who say they don’t know what to believe. Scientific research on near-death experiences and other death-related phenomena continues to accumulate data to shed new light on discussions about life after death. Ultimately, people have to decide for themselves what they want to believe.

Suzanne Newcombe, lecturer in religious studies at The Open University says,We are profoundly ignorant about many things in life. What happens after death is just one of them.” This video further explains people’s beliefs about death and the afterlife.



Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer inUrban Nursing Homes
is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.