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."



Divan to Our Chairs...

It all began with a simple trashpick.
If you're a normal person, you pass some rubbish that's sitting on the curb and go on your merry way.
But if you're a trashpicker, you slow down, survey the "merchandise" and calculate if: 
a) You can fit the bounty in your super-compact auto; and
b) You really need another faux wood end table from Big Lots. 
But we were at the shore, where my trashpickin' standards are set relatively low.
And there were two nondescript yet perfectly good white plastic beach chairs among my neighbor's trash that had my name on them. 
Since our house is situated a block from the bay, I thought it would be a swell idea to transfer them to our beach permanently. No one would mind because it's what is diplomatically called a "rustic" beach, unlike pristine oceanfronts with the "no dogs, no alcohol, no running, no loud music, no fun" rules posted everywhere.
My plan worked great and people throughout the land were ecstatic with the arrangement. Folks used the chairs to watch the sunset, fish, and play with their kids.
Winters came and went, and still our Little Chairs That Could remained in their appointed spot.
But then, one winter, the chairs disappeared, swept away either by the bay's unpredictable moods or thieves. 
 No need to fret, they were replaced the next season by other (trashpicked, natch, by sharp-eyed friends/scouts) plastic doppelgangers.
One evening, as a group of neighbors sat on the chairs around a small bonfire on the beach, someone suggested that we pitch in and buy some snazzier versions, maybe a florescent Adirondack chair or two. But that idea was squashed because it missed the point of using only "recycled" beach furniture as communal property. 
Then, one recent fall weekend, our chairs vanished, too early for the bay to sweep them away.
Soon after, during a walk on the beach, my hubby Dave spotted them.
"How do you know they are our chairs," I asked.
"I just know," he replied, lugging them behind him. "And I left the people who stole them a note in the sand to keep their hands offa the chairs."
Apparently, the thieves may not have been pleased with his message. They sent one to us, presumably, via a bag of doggie-doo left on one of our repositioned chairs.
Thems is fighting words, I thought.
But then I recalled the purpose of the chairs: share with others and embrace a Zen "if you love them, let them go" mindset.
Today, though some chairs have disappeared, a collection of six salvaged seats remain on the beach.
Will they be there when next we visit?
Who knows.
For now, if you happen to pass by our little North Cape May oasis, sit a spell and give thanks to faded throwaway items that - eventually - find their day in the sun.

Seeing the Pope (Sorta...)


 pope-page-header-940x540.jpg (940×540)

So let me start off by saying that I did NOT see the Pope in Philadelphia this weekend.

Yes, I was a volunteer for the World Meeting of Families on Saturday morning, but I was stationed in a spot where the only Pope you saw was the cardboard rendition that a shady-looking guy on a corner was selling for a few bucks to elated tourists.

Who cares if I had to walk miles up Broad Street from the parking lot at Temple University because someone on the street (mistakenly) told me the subway wasn’t stopping at my volunteer destination? You know those super fit women who can trek for days without grasping their hearts like Fred Sanford? I’m not one of them, so it was quite a hike and I felt like I certainly did my duty for La Papa.   

The second and final day of the Pope’s visit to Philly, my sister Re and I headed down to Philly to see if we could catch just a glimpse of Francis himself. After all, we were with our parents in 1979 when the last pope visited our town, and we like a nice tradition that obligates us once every 25 years or so.

When we arrived downtown on Sunday afternoon, it was full-on madness, the city awash in Vatican yellow, angelic music blasting from speakers overhead, naysayers lambasting the Pope using megaphones (everyone blithely ignored them), people streaming everywhere and nary a car in sight. (Philly officials prepared for the Pope’s visit by ordering everyone with a vehicle to sell it, stash it in a garage until Halloween or leave town with it - I’m surprised they let the Popemobile within the city limits.)

Among all the throngs of the faithful, we were lucky enough to meet up with one of Re’s daughters, Anne Marie, her husband Devon and their baby boys, Kip and Davis. Pope Francis was right – La Familia is what makes the world go round, and holding those two little boys for a half-hour while streams of visitors swirled around us was both incredibly loving and surreal.

After the babies went home for a nap and we couldn't use them to lure the Pope in for a hug, Re and I hunkered down at a spot where we hoped he might do a driveby before his scheduled mass on the Parkway. We were in the first row of a line of folks situated on a curb when a nicely dressed man and woman about our age plopped themselves right in front of us. Yes, we were all for Francis’ message of love, but we weren’t about to let these two obstruct the view that we had cornered for a good half-hour already. When we tried to politely tell them to get lost, they turned on the charm and tried to schmooze us with chit-chat. “Where ya from?” the husband asked. I wanted to say “From 10th and I’m gonna kick your ass if you don't get outta my way, mister” but I refrained, muttered “Philly” and gave him a stony stare to rival Mount Rushmore. Good thing the third Bones Sister wasn't with us for reinforcement or one of those big burly Philly cops keeping the crowd in line might have had a dustup on his hands.

Of course, none of it mattered because Francis didn’t even pass our way, due to the fact that we were in an “unsecured” area, meaning we didn’t wait for four hours to go through a checkpoint. Hey, we’re Catholics, we never said we’re dedicated Catholics…

After the crowd dispersed with the whisper-down-the-lane knowledge that Francis had started saying mass and we had no hope of seeing him up-close-and-personal, it was downright humbling to see crowds of men, women and children praying and silently watching his every move on numerous Jumbotrons. The Pope was kind, loving and forgiving and the people responded in kind. Re and I even saw a priest giving out communion near City Hall and we were lucky enough to partake. Turns out he was distributing pieces of white bread that he said were a “spiritual symbol of Christ.” After I swallowed it, I wondered if I had just eaten poisoned carbohydrates from a homicidal maniac in a brown robe. “Is he really a priest?” I whispered to a woman nearby. “Yes,” she said, “He’s our parish priest, we’re from Illinois.” Whew, that was a relief, because, honestly, I saw more than one “clergyman” in the crowds that day that looked like he bought his robes from the Halloween Shop and had just come from Happy Hour.

By 5 pm, Re and I had walked a mini-marathon around center city and even nabbed some half-priced T-shirts (hey, it was the end of the day, ya gotta at least ask for a discount). We chatted with people on the street, on the sidewalks and on the subway. People had come on foot, on buses and on planes to see the Pontiff and all agreed that it was a heart-warming, soul-firing experience. 

So in answer to the question that everyone asks, no, we didn’t actually see the Pope.

But that's Ok because we definitely felt him and his positive, loving energy.

So thanks for a wonderful weekend, Francis - it was a grand adventure and a fine time was had by all. 



The Emperor Has No Theater...

Here’s some exciting Philadelphia news: Folks, we’re not adding another boring pizza parlor to the Main Street in my neighborhood, we're welcoming a "Pizza Theater.”

As Saturday Night Live's Church Lady used to say, “Isn’t that SPECIAL?”

“Pizza Theater” is not a compelling drama featuring dough and sauce, it’s a "new" concept from Domino's Pizza. Instead of asking our civic association if it could open a ho-hum Domino's, the marketing folks at the national chain billed it as a Pizza Theater, a magical destination where customers can watch the 16-year-old Domino's employee make their order in an open kitchen "through every step of the process.” Whoopee, if there is one joy that's missing in life, it’s keeping an eagle eye on the dude who is sprinkling cheese on your pie. Now THAT’S entertainment! See, at first I was skeptical of adding another pizza shop to the 13 that already exist, but now that I know it's a The-A-ter, I'm all for it. Domino's, you clever devils, I can't wait to see your first act - what shall we call it: Long Day's Journey into Mozzarella?

They are as full of bulldinky as the Wendy's representatives who wanted to erect one of their pig-tailed restaurants in the very spot near my house where developers had knocked down a beautiful Victorian house. At a crowded civic association meeting crammed with local residents protesting the prospect of a litter-producing fast food joint, the Wendy’s bigwigs ignored our fear that the place would become a midnight magnet for barflies; Instead, they concentrated on the fact that Wendy’s late founder, an orphan himself, generously contributed to orphanages around the world. Be that as it may - to use one of my father’s favorite phrases - while my neighbors and I admired the company's philanthropic legacy, we weren't going to allow a franchised burger joint to bully its way into our residential area with tales of tax-deductible donations. 

The latest corporate-speak to set me off is Comcast, whom The American Customer Satisfaction Index rated in the bottom of its list. The company has vowed to improve its abysmal image because “it’s the right thing to do.” Yeah, and it would have also been the right thing to do years ago, before the villagers started lighting torches and heading to cable competitors. Comcast says it will now credit 20 bucks to customers for a missed technician appointment and provide employees with hospitality training “to emphasize courteous and professional interactions with customers.” The last time I called Comcast when I couldn’t access On Demand programs, the nimrod I spoke with screamed at me because I didn’t know what type of receptor box I had. Hey, I'm lucky I know what cable service I have and you're the ones who installed the damn box, so YOU look it up. Can't wait to talk to him after those training sessions!

So executives, before you start with the doublespeak, please know that the public is well aware that the emperor is buck naked and loaded with malarkey.

Look for it - coming soon! - at a “theater” near you. 




Have I Got (Unfreakingbelievable) News for You...

- The at-large maniac and small time thief who shot two state police troopers and killed one of them has been described as a self-styled survivalist, to which I say "bulldinky." He ain't no survivalist, he's a coward who already proved that he couldn't manage to accomplish what most people do every day: Go to work, pay rent, watch unreality shows and live like real grownups instead of bunking with Mommy and Daddy.This idiot's idea of a good time was playing in "recreational military simulations as a Serbian soldier." Bet that hobby looked enticing on his profile, huh? He couldn't just grow a scraggly beard and dress up in Civil War garb like a typical American reinactor, he had to find an obscure Southeast European conflict to recreate with other misfit lunatics. I guess he had plenty of time to indulge in his misguided playtime because he didn't have to show up for an actual job. You call that surviving? More like teetering on the edge, pal. As with all murderers, I refuse to mention his name and grant him the publicity his warped brain craves. Survivor? Hardly. That label goes to the widow and children of Cpl. Byron Dickson, the trooper who he massacred for no reason. So please, after using dogs, helicopters and a helium-filled balloon to hunt down this demented creep in the dense woods of the Poconos, do not describe him as a survivalist. He is a deranged opportunist with too much time on his bloodied hands.Lock him up and let's see how long the punk "survives" in a maximum-security prison...

- Supreme Leader (North Korea's title, not mine) Kim Jong Un's long disappearance from public view may all boil down to a cyst in his right ankle. Bummer. The world was waiting for a more exotic explanation for his absence, but apparently the story is more like listening to your Aunt Edith painstakingly describe her bunion procedure. Unfortunately, Kim is only 31-years-old, a bit young to start falling apart. A South Korean spy agency has followed AnkleGate closely and attributes his medical condition to Kim's "obesity, smoking and heavy public schedule." Ouch, at this rate, the world's youngest head of state is gonna be feeble by age 40, leaving him scant time to continue the persecution and execution of his people. In that case, smoke 'em if ya got em, Kim!

- My favorite imbecile world leader, Putin, has also made headlines, this time because his government is closing McDonalds restaurants in Russia as "payback for the United States' support of Ukraine." Really, Vladimir (say it twice - it's FUN!), is taking french fries out of the mouths of your comrades the strongest strategy you have? Take your shirt off, hop up on your horse and ride into the sunset, buddy. We've had enough of your macho blatherings. Put that in your special sauce and eat it.

- The Dalai Lama really knows how to slay 'em. At a recent talk at Princeton University, when a student asked him what was the key to happiness, the Dalai Lama replied" Money...or sex." There was silence in the room until the ivy league audience realized that he was just joshing them. Bada boom! He then addressed the main theme of his presentation - developing inner strength and compassion - and the audience listened to the Buddhist leader because he embraced the trick used by wise speakers through the ages: always open with a joke. Now we know that the Dali Lama has a sense of humor and, according to recent headlines, the Pope has a heart. Hey, things are lookin' up, folks! Who knows what's next - Kim and Vladimir doing standup?   



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.