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."




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." 




I witnessed two sides of showbiz this weekend: A new show that I fell in love with and an old program that I have adored for a lifetime.

The first show was an off-Broadway production called "Forever Dusty" at an intimate, packed theater. This brisk musical told the story of Dusty Springfield, a husky-voiced singer from the 70s who defied sexual, racial and societal norms of the times. It was fabulous, with terrific music, an immensely talented five-person cast and a true passion for the art of inspirational storytelling. The star of the show, who also co-wrote the script, made time to greet the audience afterward and sign autographs. "Dusty" was the highlight of our fun weekend in New York, illustrating that there's no people like show people, like no people we know...

The next day, we left the Big Apple to return to Philly. It was Oscar night, so we wanted to get back to our nests to hunker down.

The evening started off with a question mark when I realized that one of the Red Carpet hosts was a Real Housewife of Some Wealthy American City. She wore a tacky dress with a neck line that plunged to her esophagus and America kept waiting for her nipples to make their television debut. She had no interviewing talent, no savvy and no bra. It was no good.

Onto the actual Academy Awards show.

It started off slow.

It got even slower.

When you start monitoring the clock by your bedside to see how much longer the opening segment will last, you know this will not be an entertainment affair to remember.

Oscar hosts, may I share a little secret? We don't give a #%!@! about you. We are watching to see the stars, so please don't act like a self-centered blind date who only talks about himself, then adds a few more stories about himself, only to top it off with a quirky tale or two about - you guessed it! - himself.

And do you know what happens when a date becomes annoying? Everything starts to seem creepy. For example, Seth MacFarlane's clapping began to sound tinny and relentless. And the song and dance number from the 2002 movie Chicago seemed jaw-droppingly out of place. Did I miss something? Perhaps - I'll admit that I dozed off periodically throughout the three-and-a-half hour show.

And that's what I wanted to talk to you about, Oscar. I may have mentioned it before, but allow me to recap: YOU ARE MUCH TOO LONG WINDED. Michelle Obama was lovely, but how many fans were still watching by the time she made her appearance? You need to whittle down the Academy Awards or you'll soon go the way of Miss America, with lots of gowns and no audience.

Yes, I love you, Oscar, and I always have.

But this year, I felt distant from you. Was it because you didn't seem to have a smidgen of the love or the drive that I saw the day before on a New York stage?

Think about it, you big hunk of golden wonder.

Maybe next year you'll drop all the gobbledygook and put on a real show for those of us who absolutely worship you.



I saw him do it and a thrill ran through me.

There he was - one of my people! - an older gentleman stooping down to pick up scattered pieces of litter on a side street where Sammy Girl and I were taking a Sunday morning walk.

Most days, I feel as if I am the only nitwit in the world who gathers up other people's careless discards, so I was enthralled to see someone taking the litter problem into their own well-worn hands, literally. When Sammy and I caught up with the aging fellow as he headed toward the public trash can, I said "good morning" to him and he tipped his baseball cap in a silent reply. No time for chit-chat, this guy was on a mission and in Philly, litter is a project with no end date. 

I was so inspired by the conscientious fellow that when I reached my street, I picked up a few stray pieces of trash myself. The only problem was, there was nowhere to throw it. The industrial-strength trashcan that my neighbor had thoughtfully placed on our block for public use had recently been crushed to pieces.(Ironically enough, probably by a trash truck, the only vehicle known to mankind that could ossify a contractor-grade garbage can.)

Then I did the only thing that an anti-litter crusader could do - I went and "borrowed" a trash can.

Hey, don't judge me. The house where I pirated it is virtually abandoned and the owner hasn't lived there for over a year. He is in a retirement home and his cousin comes by once in a great while to remove items from his house, but she never picks up all the newspapers that have accumulated in front of the neglected residence, nor any of the litter or leaves that have piled-up on his steps.

I do that.

So when I spotted several empty trash cans on his front porch, I figured that pilfering one was an even trade. 

Later that week, still in uber clean-up-the-neighborhood mode, Sammy and I were out walking when we came upon a working man standing next to the passenger side of his truck. He appeared to be organizing the contents inside his vehicle and on the curb below him were the remnants of a fast food bag, a Styrofoam cup and other trash items. As we passed him, I looked at the pile of rubbish accumulating at his feet (honest, I didn't say a word) and he must have felt my "seriously, dude?" death stare even through my sunglasses. Instantly, he started picking up his mess. I offered to throw his stuff into the trash receptacle at the end of the street, he said "sure!" and all was right in the please-don't-be-a-litterbug world.

Except for that whole thievery thingy.

Yes, I'll admit it, my name is Diane and I am a trashcan-stealing ne'er-do-well.

But I can't help it - the sight of my fellow litter-picker that Sunday put the devil in me.

So let's make a deal: If you don't tell and you don't litter, I won't either.