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."




Ronnie Spector, often referred to as the original bad girl of rock and roll, was scheduled to perform in Cape May, so my sister Re and I decided to buy tickets to see her in concert. She had been married to producer Phil Spector, the whack job who is now in jail for fatally shooting an actress, and was the lead singer of the Ronettes, one of the most popular girl groups from back in the day, which added to her intrigue.

As we were driving to the event, we checked out her bio online, which was rich with tales of her psycho marriage and her connection with mega groups like the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

But there was one cold stat that made both of us say "Uh, oh!" in unison: Ronnie was born in 1943, which made her 70 years old. 

Keep in mind that we are not exactly bathing in the fountain of youth ourselves, but if there is one thing that can make you an ageist, it's finding a performer who is even older than you - and wondering if they can still cut it. 

So we went to the Cape May Convention Center with trepidation...until Ronnie and her band came out on stage.

She was small, she was spunky and she was perpetually smiling. It only took one song for her to erase any prejudice we had about whether a 70-year-old can whoop it up.

Of course, she looked nothing like the promo pictures that advertised her appearance at the shore town. That glam shot was taken a good four decades ago and should be mercifully archived. Ronnie, there's a reason why the government makes you update your driver's license every four years... 

It's true, she didn't strut around or hit the high notes like Tina Turner, but she was engaging, friendly, energetic and eager to entertain. She sashayed across the stage with body language that proved that she could still move like a pro. She wore slim pants that showed off her tight figure and semi-sensible shoes (closed-toe two inch high heels, if you must know the details, ladies), plus a wig that probably weighed more than she did. The flamboyant fake hair gave her the appearance of a young hipster, but the damn thing made her sweat so bad that I wanted to run up on stage and hand her a popsicle or an ice cold washcloth for some relief.

But a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to maintain her image as a music icon - and to shut-up those of us who were ready to judge her harshly.  

By the end of the performance, that old girl taught these old girls that you shouldn't judge a book by it's date of publication.

We were guilty of profiling and we got served.

Ronnie rocked.

And when we're 70 - if we're lucky - we naysayers can claim the same damn thing. 



I was waiting for a bus at Broad and Christian Streets in downtown Philly when a woman and her small granddaughter walked up to the transportation shelter, smiled, and asked if I was just at the garden party.

Yes, I was.

The garden party was an end-of-the-year celebration at Mighty Writers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children to think and write clearly. 

It was a delightful outdoor event, held at a community garden across the street from Mighty Writers at 15th and Christian. Kids proudly read their stories and poems, siblings had their faces painted, and parents and volunteers munched on hoagies and drank from a keg of root beer. The skies were cloudy, but no raindrops fell on the parade and a fine time was had by all in a little corner of the world.

While the Grandmom and I chatted at the bus stop, I learned that her granddaughter had only attended Mighty Writers for a few weeks, so she did not have a poem or story to share with the audience. But there were free children's books at the party and the little girl seemed thrilled to bring home two of them, shyly clutching on to them like treasures. 

After the bus arrived, we three boarded and I settled into a back seat so I could read my newspaper. As we headed north on Broad Street, however, I was distracted. What was that lovely sound? It was the Mighty Writers girl, a few rows up, proudly reading one of her books aloud to her Grandmom. 

As the bus wound around City Hall, headed toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art and meandered through North Philly, I continued to hear her read and read and read. It was bliss.

I think her words resonated so strongly because it was the first time I ever heard a child reading on public transportation.

I often see little kids riding on buses, but most often, the youngsters sit stoically while Mommy or Daddy chat on their phone, listen to their music or check their Facebook page. I can't recall seeing a child reading, let alone proudly reciting words out loud to an interested adult. 

When the Grandmom gathered their belongings as their stop approached, I asked her if the child would be returning to Mighty Writers.

"She's moving soon, so, unfortunately, no," the Grandmother replied.

That's too bad, I thought, but hoped her brief Mighty Writers tenure made an impression on her.

On that June night, she certainly left an impression on me. 

And wherever she goes, I hope that wonderful child continues to read, write, learn and inspire with all her might. 








My passport had expired and although writing the $110 check for a new one was painful enough, taking a photo for it was downright excruciating.

I headed to the nearest drugstore so a 19-year-old clerk could take the two- inch mugshot that will stay with me for a decade. The young girl who photographed me right in front of the cold remedies display in the bright, busy CVS was sweet, but I have seen more attractive autopsy shots than the picture she took.  

In fact, it was so awful that I couldn't bear to send it away with my passport application and headed to a Rite Aid, hoping that another youngster who doubled as clerk/official photographer could make me look human. God love her, the outcome was not quite as horrifying as the first version, and when I travel overseas, I'll do my best to look as utterly wretched as I do in my passport photo...

About the same time that I was fretting over my pharmacy photos, my sister gave me a giant container of old family pictures to sift through. (Watching a particularly nauseating episode of "Extreme Hoarders" can inspire some serious spring cleaning projects.) And as I shuffled through literally a hundred years of photos, I wondered if future generations will ever do the same.

You know how it is today - you capture moments from parties and celebrations with your phones or digital cameras and post them online. But when was the last time you actually printed a photo, except for the occasional wedding or other life-changing occasion?

So what will happen to all of those images that we never develop? Will our offspring be able to look at them in 50 years or will they be lost in cyberspace, when we and/or our computers expire?

I never met my maternal grandmother - she died of heart disease in her forties, before I was born - and I have no possessions of hers to treasure, but I do love the black and white pictures of her from early in the 20th century.The photo below of her was dated "summer 1919" and was probably taken in Atlantic City. When I scrutinize this shot, I am struck by the fact that one of my nieces look remarkably like her great-grandmother, the young girl who posed on the beach almost 100 years ago.  

In the same batch of photos, I also found this high school pic of my mom. She looks like an angel and I am honored to have this image of her as a young woman. But, again, will her great-grandchildren have photos of themselves for their great-grandchildren to cherish later in the 21st century?


But I'll be honest, not every photo from the treasure trove that my sister gave me is a keeper and I'll admit that I ripped up a bunch of them. (Let's just say that the early teen years were not kind to many of us, mainly moi.)

And on that note, in only ten short years, my passport will expire and I'll finally be able to destroy that damn 2013 drugstore passport photo...Until then, immigration personnel, be gentle. 



Three Cheers for the Boston Marathon volunteers.

April is National Volunteer Month and I was at a volunteer party at Calcutta House, a residence in Philadelphia for people with HIV/AIDS, on the evening of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Ironically, as the volunteer festivities were getting underway, a television in the Calcutta living room was showing the scene of marathon volunteers who ran to help those who had been injured by the bomb's blast. Those folks didn't need an official month to show their volunteer chops - they just instinctively pitched in, even though danger enveloped them.  

The scene was so grim that the TV was turned off so we could all get in more of a celebratory mood for the volunteer party. The gathering was a modest affair, organized by the residents to show their appreciation for people who cook for them, buy gifts for them at Christmas, play chess with them or just sit and chat with them - it's simple and direct volunteering and doesn't involve a single board meeting (or as I like to call them, bored meetings.) The volunteers ranged from college students to middle-aged folks to elderly church ladies, and the residents gave each a plaque and enough kudos that made even the most humble soul feel proud. 

The secret about volunteering is that far from being a great sacrifice, it's actually a lot of fun. Before the bombs erupted at the Boston Marathon, you can bet that those volunteers were smiling, energized and having a ball on that crisp, sunny spring day. 

The marathon volunteers are the antitheses of the bottom-dwellers who set off the bomb at the Marathon; the former ooze joy and the latter reek of evil, disappointment and hopelessness.

What can we do to fight against their murderous depravity?

In conjunction with National Volunteer Month, I propose that everyone volunteer somewhere. It doesn't have to be "official" - just drive a neighbor who doesn't have a car to the supermarket or take someone who is lonely to a movie and, wah-la, you're a volunteer. Do you help your elderly uncle clean his house? Did you take your Mom to lunch when she was feeling down? Good, you're a volunteer, too. Congrats. 

A memorable New Yorker cartoon appeared in the weeks following 9/11. It showed two gentlemen sitting at a bar and one says to the other: "I figure if I don't have that third martini, then the terrorists win."

In that spirit, let's make sure that the bombers lose.

Erase their heinous acts and honor the Boston Marathon volunteers, victims and runners by becoming a volunteer in your own special way.

Then maybe you'll even get a party, a plaque and a chance to thumb your nose at those who think they can bring us down with their homicidal misery.






The cross was too much to bear.

I don't mean that metaphorically, I mean it was actually wayyyy too much.

It was Ash Wednesday last month, so I went to church to uphold my status as a mediocre Catholic who questions more than she prays.

But when I saw my fellow parishioners coming down the aisle after receiving their ashes from our pastor, my first inappropriate thought was "Oh crap!" Instead of a simple ash mark, every single person had a jet black cross the size of a bagel on their foreheads. The thing was startlingly huge.

Now, I was trying to kick-off the Lenten season with some humility, but this display was enough to make a bona fide saint do a double take and say, "Whhoaaa, there, big fella, crank it back a notch."

Sometimes I feel as if the Catholic Church in general and the priests at my parish in particular are deliberately trying to tick-off the faithful. For example, they refuse to distribute palms on Palm Sunday until after mass is completed. Have to sneak out early to attend to your aging Mother? No palms for you! And I remember our pastor warning churchgoers that we could not receive ashes unless we stayed put for the entire mass. Hey, fadder, every heard of busy people who have to get to work on a weekday? Sheesh!

So the gargantuan ash crosses struck me as yet another "You're Catholic and you'll like it!" form of organized bullying.

To avoid a stigmata on my face, I cagily tiptoed over to another line to get my ashes from another priest. Of course the joke was on me and my immortal soul because a directive must have been issued encouraging every ash-giver to "GET THOSE SUCKERS WITH EVERY OUNCE OF THUMB MUSCLE YA HAVE" because priest number two gave me ashes that would have lasted a good week or two if I let them.  

Horrified by how I looked, I did what any sane adult would do: I went home and rubbed-off three-quarters of the ashes with a tissue. I'm sure I racked-up some major sacrilege by flushing blessed ashes down the john, but I had to teach later that day and I didn't want black soot trickling onto my nose in the midst of a scintillating lecture. 

The good news is that there's a new Pope in town and he seems to understand that you don't have to wear your spirituality on your forehead.

Yes, I know he has a long way to go with vital issues like women priests, gay rights and papal bling, but baby steps, people. Pope Francis advocates short homilies, a humble lifestyle and love for all mankind, and that sounds like progress to me.

Next Lenten season, perhaps he'll even send out a memo to overly exuberant clerics worldwide that says something like this:"For God's Sake, everybody, RELAX and ease up on the *!&#! ashes."