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 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.



I hate January.

And it's not because of the icy weather or the post-holiday blues (OK, I admit, a reindeer-less living room is somewhat depressing).

No, it's because every year at this time I visit my dermatologist so he can count the brown spots on my body to verify that the number has not yet exceeded 10,000.

This year, to jazz up our annual tete a tete, he brought two medical students into the examination room with him.

Perfect, I thought, the gang's all here to behold me like a stuffed buffalo in the Academy of Natural Sciences.

You could tell instantly that the two twenty-something trainees were fresh from the classroom, still dazzled by Power Point presentations about impetigo and surface dermatitis. One student was a lovely young woman of Asian descent whose skin looked like delicate porcelain china, completely untouched by the sun's wretched rays; the other was a young man who seemed nice but vaguely uncomfy with the topics of basal cells or lesions.

So I sat shivering in my undies and paper-thin hospital thingy (I refuse to call it a gown; it's nothing like a gown, more like a tattered old house dress that your grandmother wore in 1962), while the two of them, and a nurse thrown in for good measure, observed carefully as the doc touched and inspected my external being, inch after humiliating inch, for signs of age marks gone wild, sun spots run amok.

As the doctor opened my flimsy garment to peruse parts of my structure that I prayed no human being would ever see after I turned 50, he summoned the two students to snuggle in for a closer look as he explained, "See, this is all from sun exposure." As opposed to what, I thought, too many moonbeams?

And I wondered if the pair of students were at that very moment considering leaving the medical profession or at least switching their speciality to something like research pathology, anything that did not require the minute investigation of acres and acres of live but thoroughly damaged skin.

When the doctor asked me to flip over on my stomach so he could review my other side for more possible disturbances, I contemplated whether I'd rather perish from epidermis horriblis than undergo another semi-naked head-to-toe examination.

But revealing my hinder side was not even the tip of my mortification, for the best was yet to come: the annual burning off of actual flesh with liquid nitrogen, a process known as cryotherapy, an incredibly cruel and somewhat painful method of melting away the facial marks that no amount of caked-on Cover Girl could ever conceal.

As my skin singed and I emitted a whimper of distress, I looked at the medical clan peering intently at my mug and had an eerie vision of myself lounging on an Ocean City beach in 1970, blissfully unaware of the misery, not to mention shock and awe, it would produce four decades later.

Finally, it was all over.

I bid the medical crowd adieu, went home, looked in the mirror and noticed the post-cyrotherapy blisters that were already forming on my ravaged face.  

Ahh, hunker down, kids, that's a sure sign that it's definitely January.

Happy 2013 everybody!



Have you ever been wrapping a Christmas gift for someone and suddenly been struck by the notion that maybe, just maybe, you bought that person the exact same gift last Christmas?

Oh well, it's the senile thought that counts.

Anyway, Christmas should be more about people than a pair of Old Navy PJs, correct?

Thankfully, this year we have a new baby in the family to celebrate with us (three Cheers for Liam!) and another new in-law (welcome, Devon!).

I have a terrible memory (see the Christmas gift dilemma above), so I can barely recall Christmases of yore, but I definitely still have strong memories of the certain Christmases, like the one where Santa brought me a mini-doll kitchen that had real running water (but only when you poured some H2O in the back of the teeny tiny sink). I thought it was the most amazing invention of the 20th century and played with that toy for hours, which may be why I feel sort of burned out when it comes to cooking in adult-sized kitchens in the 21st century.

Some of the best Christmas celebrations I can remember were totally unplanned. When I was single (again) and living alone, it dawned on me a few days before Christmas that no one was going to see the decorations that I had so carefully placed throughout my little condo. So to show off my mistletoe, I invited my family and some old friends to a last minute Christmas Eve party at my place, figuring maybe I'd get a handful of people who happened to be free. But as it turned out, a lot of folks were happy for the invite, including old neighbors from our childhood home and new neighbors from my condo building. With friends, nieces and nephews, and my Dad serving as my gracious co-host, honest to God, we had a truly fun and festive time at my modest abode. It was a Christmas Eve that I never expected and one I never forgot, God bless us everyone!

When I was in my early 20s, my friend T had a party every year on Christmas night. We twenty-somethings had spent Christmas day with our parents and graced them with our presence at dinner, but by nightfall, we had enough of familial togetherness and were ready to celebrate with our pals. And boy, did T pack 'em in. By the time midnight arrived, his place looked like a roaring Twenties speakeasy, with everyone dancing, singing and partying away. I have never heard of anyone having a Christmas night party for the young and single crowd since then, and I'm not sure if it would work today, but those Christmas nights are highlights of holidays gone by. Of course, once T and everyone started to settle down and have kids, the Christmas night soiree was history. But to this day, T and his wife Fran still have an annual bash on Boathouse Row on the weekend before Christmas that is equally jam-packed, this time with the families that have sprung forth from that 1970s crowd of Christmas revelers.But no matter how wonderful Christmases past were, there is absolutely nothing like Christmas present. 

So Merry Christmas everyone - hope it's your best one yet!