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:

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.