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."



The Mean Lady's Elbow

It's my birthday and I'm sitting with hubby in an outdoor music center after a picnic dinner, awaiting an evening concert by the world famous Philadelphia Orchestra. Two little girls are running down one of the aisles when a woman in the row in front of them turns in her seat and screams, "no running!" Does she know those kids, we wonder? It doesn't appear so. Wow, that takes nerve. Maybe she's a playground monitor or a lifeguard who is programmed to say that famous phrase. But this is an open-air venue and the concert hasn't even started, so talking, laughing and yes, even running, are completely appropriate. Oh well. In a few minutes, the two girls return and they are running again, as kids are apt to do. Mean Lady spots them, scowls and, just as the girls approach her seat, she throws an elbow timed to hit the youngsters. Hubby Dave and I look at each other as if to say, "Did you see that?" Meanest Lady Alive could have really hurt those little kids, but the girls just shake it off - maybe they can't believe the old battleaxe really meant them harm - and continue running toward their family. For the rest of the night, Dave and I can't get over Mean Lady's actions. Throughout the concert, she refrains from physically assaulting anyone else, but directs her evil eye at whomever in the audience dares to displease her - coughers, antsy children, people who dare to breathe.

My birthday wish that night? That I avoid morphing into Mean Lady some day - and keep my stinkin' elbows to myself.


As the Crab Flies...

So there we are at the Jersey shore, in beautiful downtown Margate with our 89-year-old friend Mary. We are on a mini-boardwalk area that extends out over the bay as the five-o'clock sunlight paints the view with a serene loveliness. Suddenly, a huge seagull flies above us. Hey, does it have something in it's mouth? Something big? Something struggling? Holy Toledo, it's a crab. The gull circles around and lands behind us on the strip of boardwalk, dropping the crab and then pecking at it pleasurably. The crab darts to the left, only to be jabbed by the gull's sharp beak. Then it darts to the right, dodging fruitlessly. Again, the gull goes in for the kill. We three witness the whole shebang, crab shred by crab shred. We can't go anywhere, with the gull blocking our path, so we have to witness the death dance of the crab, literally on its last legs. Finally, when the crab is a goner and the gull flies away - burping? - I promptly exit, tip-toeing past the leftovers, shook-up by the brutality. Hubby say no big deal, it's just Wild Kingdom at its finest, but I didn't watch that show when it was on TV and I certainly don't want to see it up close and personal on a perfectly wonderful summer day. Mary? She is unfazed, a survivor. Why am I so freaked? I don't know, forgive the maudlin attitude, but it's been a weird week, with all the Farrah, Michael and Billy Mays news. It just makes me think - you never know when a seagull or its equivalent is going to swoop you up. In the meantime, guess we just have to be kind, have fun and live it up.


In Praise of Fathers (on the Day After Father's Day)

When I read about a new invention, a plastic ice tray that makes elongated ice cubes that fit nicely into a water bottle, all I could think was, “Dad would have loved this.”

Anything that sliced, diced or came with 12 extra components and included a free gift was simply irresistible for my Dad. And he could never just buy one item; he’d have to buy three more, one for me and for each of my two sisters. Ironically, although he never cooked actual meals, culinary accoutrements held a special appeal, as did the cookbooks, cooking magazines and cooking utensils that jammed every drawer in his kitchen.

As the oldest of eight children, the son of a Philly beat cop and a homemaker, my Dad never had much as a kid and, as an adult, seemed determined to compensate for that. It wasn’t the latest model car or fine clothes that he lusted after; it was just “stuff.”

After my Mom died, his buying habits intensified. If you mentioned that you liked a certain type of shampoo, he’d purchase a decade supply’s worth. If he saw an offer for knickknacks in three easy payments, he’d snatch up several to distribute to his “girls.” In Daddy Bones’ mind, there was no use enjoying a great find if he couldn’t share it with his children. He lived according to the old Irish saying, “May your giving hand never fail.”

Of course, my Dad’s generosity was not endless. When I told my parents that I was considering graduate school, my Dad, who had paid for my college tuition in full, boomed, “That’s terrific, honey, I sure hope you can find a way to finance it.”

The giving hand, apparently, had its limits.

But his giving heart knew no bounds.

If your tire went flat, if you received a letter from the IRS, if a blind date turned out to be a world-class schmuck, my Dad was there to help or sympathize or philosophize by saying, “If this is the worst thing that happens, you’ll be doing good.”

When my brother was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, at a time when a frightened world shunned people with HIV, my Dad and Mom embraced their son and cared for him in their home until he died. Weeks after Tommy passed, when my parents were out to dinner with some friends, an acquaintance of the group made an AIDS joke. Everyone froze, but instead of causing a stir, my Dad just put his arm around the man, took him aside and quietly told him about his late son. Class act.

An accountant who looked like a leprechaun and a lover of good stories and long jokes, my Dad gradually turned more cantankerous as he aged. After he became frail and sickly, however, he still managed to maintain his fatherly stance. Whenever I’d prepare to depart after a visit to his nursing home, he’d take my hand, kiss it like a knight in the queen’s court, and advise me to get on my way. A gentleman to the end.

Dad is no longer here to purchase any must-have oblong ice cube trays, but like any good father, his legacy of love and unselfishness endures and I think of him often – especially around Father's Day and particularly when I hear those infamous words, “Only $19.99, but that’s not all!”


What the @#!&!?!

OK, so I admit it, she who is without curse words shouldn't throw stones.

But I can't help it.

Last week, I overheard a mother cursing-out her young daughter. The child was about eight. She looked forlorn, beaten-down. The mom was dropping the F-bomb, something about the girl's father. They were waiting for a bus and, as I passed by, Mommy screamed her curses loud enough for me, her innocent daughter, and the people in the next county to hear without straining. I didn't make eye contact with Mommy. I think she wanted attention, so I saw no evil, heard no evil, and walked on by.

Yesterday, in a store, surveying the shoe selection, I couldn't help but hear a young guy blabbing on his cell phone, dropping the F-note like it was the world's only noun and adjective. He was with another guy and they were following a woman whom I assumed was their mother. The posse drew closer to me and sonny-boy continued his loudmouthed diatribe, F-this and F-that. I was mad as heck and couldn't take it anymore. "Hey, HEY, do you mind?" I said sternly, directing my words to him but looking at the mom as if to infer, "Can't you make your grown son behave civilly in public?" She just nudged her progeny along and gave me a dazed "whaddayagonnado?" look.

As I already admitted, I can curse like a truck driver who used to be a sailor. But, hopefully, I do it with people whom I trust and in the privacy of our own conversations. I live next to a grade school and I often hear loud cursing from the playground during recess. But what do you expect? If you are a child and your F-ing mother is screaming on a street corner about your F-ing father in front of F-ing strangers, you will do the same. Frankly, I think it's a doggone shame. And I'm going to make a resolution: the next time a curse word starts to spill out of my big mouth, I'm gonna make a real effort to replace it with something more original. F-ing A.


Giving Colds the Cold Shoulder

Ahhhhh, you have a coooooold, huh?

That's what everyone asked me this week, tilting their heads in great sympathy.

But I don't know why people get all revved-up over a cold. It's not diptheria or scabies, it's just a cold. Years ago, I had a friend who would announce that she had a cold with the same level of anguish typically attributed to state funerals or murder/suicides. Since then, I have been loathe to wallow in cold-angst.

A North Carolina woman named Martha Mason died recntly. She spent 61 of her 71 years living in an 800-pound, seven-foot iron lung after being stricken with polio and paralyzed from the neck down. Now she had something to complain about. I don't know if you are familiar with an iron lung, but it's a huge, tubular device, like an MRI, that you lie in, permanently. I saw a movie when I was young that featured a little girl who was confined to an iron lung. Let me tell you, an iron lung makes an impression on you when you're a kid. Forget detention, threaten me with an iron lung and you'd get my attention back in the day... At any rate, despite her six decades in an iron lung, Ms. Mason graduated at the top of her college class and wrote an autobiography using a voice-recognition computer. God bless her soul. I bet that she never bellyached about a cold.

As for the rest of you, the next time you feel the sniffles coming on, buck-up, grab a tissue and get on with it.