The Knee Bone's Connected To ...

Such a face! Daddy Bones@ age 12, gracing the book's cover.


 How to Keep Your Sanity Intact When a Loved One Needs a Nursing Home  

It’s estimated that more than 50 million people provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year.

Studies show that extremely stressed caregivers can age or die prematurely. 

“Bette Davis said ‘old age is no place for sissies,’ but caring for an older loved one isn’t for the feint of heart, either,” says Bones. “I loved my dad and we were very close, but the strain of ‘putting’ him in a nursing home was so overwhelming for all of us that I felt like I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.”

Becoming aware of some of the don’ts” of long-term care can make daily life easier for nursing home residents and for their family caretakers,” she notes.

Bones offers some key examples from her Nursing Home Checklist:

· Ask clergy, family, and friends - especially those in the health care field - to recommend outstanding nursing homes.

· When touring a nursing home, ask other visitors for frank feedback about the facility. Don’t just inspect the “sample” room, look into residents’ rooms to check for cleanliness.

· Assure your loved one that you will be their ongoing advocate.

· Visit your loved one often and at varying times of the day - and night. This alerts all of the caregivers that you are keeping an eye on your loved one.

· Get to know the staff, especially your loved one’s immediate caregivers.

· Thank the employees for the thankless job that they do.

· Put your loved one’s name on all their belongings, including clothes and personal products. Never leave money or valuables in their room.

· Place a quilt, photos and other small touches to create a “homey” room.

· Put a brief bio and picture of your loved one at the entrance of their room to “introduce” them to staff and visitors.

. Bring old photos when you visit your loved one - it will give you something to look at if conversation lags.

. Bring different edible treats to spice-up the resident's menu.





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Yo.....Welcome to the Bonesblog of Diane Bones. I am a freelance writer specializing in feature articles. I also teach a Humor Writing course at Temple University. See Bonesbio for more.

Check out my new book, Tea, Sticky Buns and the Body of Christ (Postscripts From a Nursing Home), a memoir of the year I spent with my Dad before he died. Watch as my family and I laugh, cry and crumble as we become the raw meat of the "sandwich generation."



Goodbye, Girl's Best Friend

We had to say goodbye to our beloved Sammy Girl last week.

I have mentioned before how our story began about a dozen years ago, when I begged my hubby if we could take in my niece's dog, Sammy. A dog-lover, he had to put down his Old English Sheepdog, Reggie, just a few years beforehand, so he didn't want to fall in love with another dog and experience the heartbreak again. So Dave said no, and when I persisted, said no again.

Despite his protests, the next thing he knew, Sammy was marching through our door with a look of "who are these people?" on her frazzled face. But Dave relented, two-year-old Sammy settled in and we slid into a routine that would carry her through the next decade-plus: A walk every morning, sleep during the day in my third floor office, hang with me and Dave in the evening and then make her way upstairs to her dog bed, which was nestled right next to our bed, and wait for us to follow suit. Trips to the shore? Hop in the car and get ready for a swim, Sammy. Invited to my sister's house for holidays? Come on, Sammy, let's go celebrate. Drinks at a cafe's sidewalk table? Belly up, girl, it's Happy Hour.

Where we went, Sammy followed.

We had our share of adventures. There was the lady and her dog who yelled at me (the lady, not the dog) for allowing Sammy to run free in the park when I thought there was no one around. When I mouthed off right back at Miss Grouchypants (nobody puts baby in the corner) and she approached us, it became clear that she was a strong women who could take me down in a flash. So, still sparring with her verbally, Sammy and I slowly backed out of the park, swiftly strode home and made sure we avoided the World Wide Wrestling dog owner again.

At the same park, a big red dog viciously attacked. After the owner wrestled the animal off of Sammy, she apologized, saying that the mutt was "a rescue on antidepressants." Sammy and I looked at each other as if to say, "Sister, you better increase the dose FAST because those current meds ain't working."

Beside a few other dog attacks that shook me more than Sammy, we continued to make tracks uneventfully and faithfully every morning - snowstorms, icy temperature in the teens, broiling heat that made us beg for a shaded street - all around our neighborhood. We got to know all of the other "dog people" in the area, not to mention students walking to the grade school on our block, crossing guards and the regulars who waited every weekday at the bus stop. Many of them liked to bend down and give Sammy a pet. Ever the aloof female, she'd accept their affection with an air of nonchalance. 

In the last year, Sammy's arthritis limited our walks to a just a short stroll around the block on good days (sorry, Dr. Oz, no cardiovascular benefits from that) and only to the corner on days when she'd just stop, turn around and head for home, the international dog signal for "Mom, I've had enough."

Despite taking daily arthritis prescription medication (1-800 PetMeds' directions on the bottle: "Do not take with alcohol." Good to know!) Sammy began to limp with every single step she took.

Gradually, she also lost most of her sight and her hearing. With her diminished senses, climbing up or down steps was like flopping into an unknown abyss. 

Although she had been a terrific traveler, car rides made her pant uncontrollably and pace relentlessly in the back seat. I couldn't get her 58-pound body into my car and had to wait until Dave could pick her up and plop her in.

During the summer, Sammy had reached the point where it took her a good ten minutes to awkwardly lay down and she sometimes did so with a wince. Rising up was an even worse ordeal, paws spreading out as her muscle control diminished. She tumbled down the hardwood stairs several times, so we put up a baby gate to prevent her from climbing them alone. When she went upstairs for the night, I'd be at the top of the steps to haul her up the last few feet and Dave would be behind her, ready to catch her if she fell. 

She also started having some "accidents," a trend that was new and unfamiliar territory for her.

On her last night, she became stuck under our bed, flailing helplessly as she dug herself under, deeper and deeper. Her cries awoke me at 2:30 am and I desperately tried to pull her out, but everywhere I touched her, she yelped in pain. When I finally wiggled her out, she was shaking and inconsolable.

Having her put down was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, which is saying something from a vintage gal who has witnessed her share of deaths in the family.

I can't explain why losing her has hit so very hard, but it has.

She was an old dog who was probably in a lot of pain, but to me, she was Sammy Girl, always at my side, by my bed, on my walks and in my heart.

Goodbye, good girl. I hope you are at peace and I can't thank you enough for the privilege of your nonjudgmental, loving and tail-wagging company.



Are You Kidding Me?

Everybody seems so young to me these days.

When my hubby watched the National Hockey League draft, I saw some of the guys who had been chosen in the first round and asked, "How old are those kids?    

Some of them looked like they were about about to become Eagle Scouts and if any one of them challenged me to a wrestling match, I actually think I'd win. They hardly looked like professional athletes, more like second stringers for the high school cheerleading squad. 

But what do I know about youth?

I think people are still babies when they're 25.

The Miss America organization does not agree. According to the official pageant rules, if you want to become Miss America - and who doesn't? - you must be between the ages of 17 and 24. Unfortunately, a lovely young 24-year-old woman who was recently crowned Miss Delaware was dethroned when it became known that she'll turn 25 - oh, the humanity! - before the end of the year, making her ineligible to stroll the runway.

Ouch, that had to hurt, having her rhinestone hopes and dreams dashed at the quarter-century mark. Time to head home and start eating grains and carbohydrates again!

The irony is that so many of the super-dolled-up Miss America contestants look like they are well into their forties. Glazed-on hairspray, pancake foundation and gowns from the Lawrence Welk Show will do that to a gal.

The good news is that even though the almost-Miss Delaware was stripped of her title and ineligible to run for the Miss America crown, the Age Police said she could keep her $9,000 scholarship. Yipee, that'll pay for about one credit, thanks loads, folks. I may be old, but at least I'll be ed-gee-cated!

But you don't have to be old to think everybody looks young. When you're 28, college students seem downright infantile; when you're middle-aged, you can't believe that the IRS agent looks exactly like that kid you used to babysit; and when you're past 50, you think that everyone under 50 positively radiates with a youthful glow. I gaze at old photos of my younger, leaner self and want to scream, "If you thought you were chunky then, sister, have I got a big fat surprise for you..."

Last week, a friend left a PEOPLE magazine in my door. The publication had two young "stars" on the cover, over which my friend had scrawled "Who ARE these people?" So not only do all the celebrities seem inexplicably young, we are approaching the age when we don't even recognize their apparent fame. 

Oh, well, I can't help it if athletes, movie stars and the guy who pumped my gas last week (he looked like a high school sophomore but then I heard him talking about his three kids) project such a youthful appearance.

I just wish to God they'd all stop helping me across the street and calling me, "Ma'am."  



Why don't they just flog her on the town square?

Ellen Degeneres, that is.

Parents at a suburban Philadelphia Catholic elementary school freaked out because Ellen DeGeneres' photo appeared on an invitation for an Oscar-themed graduation dance at their kids' school.

Because Ellen hosted the Academy Awards this year, it seemed like a natural fit for the invite, but some parents with waaaaaay too much time on their hands saw red when they noticed the celeb's mug. To assuage them, the school principal emailed all of the parents to apologize for featuring someone who "lives her life outside the teachings of the Catholic Church." She also asked for a return of the invitations so they could be "destroyed." Yeah, burn 'em at the stake for corrupting those poor kids! One look at Ellen's pantsuit and they'll start marathon-watching WILL AND GRACE reruns.  

My uneducated guess is that the kerfuffle was caused by just a few crabapples who feel that America is becoming a bit too "accepting" for its own good. They want to send a message to everyone - including any kids in the school who are gay or have a gay family member - that even a reference to a homosexual is repugnant, the finest in Fear and Loathing, circa 2014.     

After all, the Pope himself has already sent the message to ease up on the holier-than-thou bandwagon. If he professes "Who am I to judge?" in regard to gay people, then maybe the Catholic school parents should take note. We're not talking about sponsoring a Johnny Weir fan club, for God's sake.

So calm down, everyone. Remember the words my first grade nun taught me: "God is love." She didn't say "God is hate or fear or judgement or mean-spiritedness."

Yes, it makes sense to protect your children, so don't idolize athletes who murder or business executives who swindle or community leaders who deceive or clergy who molest.

However, if a well-respected and non-incarcerated celebrity who also is gay appears on a school invitation, don't shine a spotlight on your deep prejudices.

Instead of public flagellation, keep your big trap shut and show your child that, like all people of deep faith, you love and respect others, even the ones who - in your opinion - aren't nearly as perfect as you are.  



- LET'S SEE IF WE CAN SCREW THIS UP EVEN MORE. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia ended a 2006 program in which they provided parochial school tuition to the children of clergy sex-abuse victims. What, were they vying to win first prize for THE worst public relations move of the 21st century? Only six victims' families have benefited from the tuition assistance and some of those who were abused say that they weren't even aware of the program. The real story? The victims would probably rather send their kids to clown school. Your Eminence, think of another way to say "We're sorry" and do it FAST.

- YOU SAID IT, SISTER. The world's oldest person, Missao Ohkawa, recently turned 116. When asked if she was happy to have lived so long, the birthday gal replied, "Kind of." Ya gotta love that answer! "Yes, I'm ecstatic that I haven't died, but darn it, even my grandkids are starting to kick the bucket - it's getting weird." 
- KEEP THAT DASHING SCARF AT HOME, PAL. Organizers of the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade allowed gay military veterans to march a few weeks ago, but they would not let them hold signs or wear clothes that referred to their sexual orientation. Wow, imagine the poor guy who had to monitor those strict fashion restrictions during the parade - I can just hear him on his official walkie-talkie: "Uh, this is O'Connell, over and out, we have a situation here, a vet wearing kitten heels, can you send some backup, pronto? Over and very much out."
- IF THE BOOK FITS. Sarah Palin read a parody based on the Dr. Suess book, "Green Eggs and Ham" to express her thoughts to an audience at a Conservative Political Action Conference. Glad to know that the former VP candidate has buckled down and decided to graduate from the newspapers and magazines that Katie Couric quizzed her about to an actual book. Progress, Sarah! 

 - HAIR YE, HAIR YE. There were news reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was forcing male university students to cut their hair like his weirdly buzzed do, but it was just a rumor. Good news, because "Dear Leader," as Kim is called, is not exactly a GQ cover boy. Back in 2005, however, the government did make a proclamation about hair, saying that long locks on men affected brain activity by taking oxygen away from nerves in the head. (They did allow exemptions for longer hair on men who favored the internationally loathed comb-over style.) So Dennis Rodman, make sure your head is appropriately coiffed before you make another buddy visit to your dear friend and style icon, Dear Leader.  

Buck Up, Comrades!

Recently, I saw a news photo of 52 passengers from a Russian research ship that was marooned by a humongous iceberg in Antarctica.

Amazingly, these voyagers were linking arms and gleefully marching across a stretch of ice next to their immobile vessel, and I thought: "Why can't I be more like those happy-go-lucky castaways?"

The group looked like a bundled-up Broadway chorus line or the Von Trapp family, climbing every mountain, except that they were in one of the coldest spots on earth. They had been stranded for more than a week because the ice had looked at them, laughed, and said: "You ain't going nowhere, suckers."  

Of course, turns out that this bunch of stalwarts weren't just taking a brisk walk in frigid temps, they were smoothing out snow with their feet so that a helicopter could land on even ground to rescue them.

But the fact that they performed their task with a smile was amazing. Not even specially-designed ice breaking ships could reach them - thus the need for their eventual escape by aircraft – but the passengers seemed to make the best of their sorry situation. Me, I would have been asking for the manager, a hot toddy and a refund.

You see, here in Philly, we are not exactly hardy when it comes to weather emergencies. In fact, we're exhausted after enduring about a dozen snowstorms this winter.

Back in December, when an unexpected blizzard swept through town, we were elated at the beauty the sudden, pristine snow.

Since that event, not to mention another 70-plus inches of snow, the polar vortex honeymoon is over.

Last Saturday morning, I almost threw in the snow shovel. I was headed out for an overnight winter adventure at the Jersey shore, only to find that my car was being devoured by an ice and snow shelf. Almost on cue, a snow squall started to fall as my arthritic hands made a minimal dent in the gargantuan snow mound and I salted the perimeter of the vehicle with my tears.

I was just about to give up, when along came a young man who volunteered to help. He shoveled, salted and pushed my car for 15 minutes. Then another young guy walked by and offered to pitch in. Before long, my two snow angels had rocked my tiny auto back and forth until the wheels stopped spinning and it broke free of its frozen enclave.  

The kindness of the two young strangers gave me hope that perhaps the winter of our discontent had not completely hardened everyone.

Of course, I don't think I'll ever be as upbeat as the passengers on the frozen Russian ship. Grabbing my neighbors and walking cheerfully arm-in-arm down our street, pounding on the accumulated flurries with our tootsies to make the roadway safer for kids, dogs and the elderly just ain't in our Philly future.  

But I promise this: I’ll try to stop complaining about the !*#! weather and toast to my pair of unexpected Knights in Puffy-Coated Armor... at least until that first God-awful heat wave hits.