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."




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!





Sure, sure, I should be bursting with the spirit of the season, but certain trends have been bothering me mightily. For example:


Yes, I recognize the point of these handy machines: instead of raking your wrists off, you simply transform into a Ghost Busters cast member, plug-in your device and blow those suckers into a handy pile. But don't forget that the next step, people, is to place said pile in a bag for disposal. The nitwit "professional" who "landscapes" the rental house next door to me hasn't quite gotten the hang of the bagging 'em up part. He blows the leaves out onto a big clump on the street, which is a bummer because we have no driveways and folks literally fist fight over parking spots. And after winter officially arrives, street leaves that are covered with snow become positively glue-like mini-mountains of slippery black muck. When I asked Mr. Landscaper if he could sweep up the leaves that he had sent into the street, he said he didn't have a broom. No prob, I'll lend you mine, I replied, but by then, he had jumped into his truck and was speeding away. The second time I asked him about the street leaves, he mentioned it was the Philadelphia Streets Department's responsibility to clean them up. I had a good hearty chuckle over that statement, until I realized that the poor delusional lad was actually serious. At any rate, as I had predicted, the street leaves swiftly made their way to the sidewalk in front of my house (or, as we city folks call it, my "front yard") where my poor, old carpal-tunnel plagued hands had to sweep them all up. Boy, I SURE coulda used a leaf blower...

- NEXT IN LINE PLEASE - Have you ever heard that phrase while you're waiting to check out at a store? If you have, you know what happens next - the young stud behind you time-travels over to the newly opened checkout lane, even though you were clearly the "next person in line." I was at the dollar store recently (hope you like your Christmas gifts, everyone!) when this occurred and the clerk was savvy enough to ignore the buttinsky guy and signal me over so he could wait on me first. I felt like I had won the Mrs. America contest! "Thank you for acknowledging the invisible middle-aged woman," I told him. "You don't know how many times I practically get run over by schmucks who jump right in front of me." Then I turned and gave the line jumper a killer look that...well, let's just say I don't think he'll be shopping at the dollar store or butting in front of little oldish ladies any time soon.


There is a clothing drop-off bin in a shopping center near me for an organization called "Kiducation" with the puzzling tagline: "We turn used clothing into new kids through education." Really? Exactly how do you manage this science fiction-like trick and does the Department of Family Services know about it? 






Blame it on my Mother.

She's the one who started it.

She used to read the obituaries every day and report back to me if anyone we knew, met or ever laid eyes on had died.

So of course, in her honor, I scan the "Irish Sports Page" religiously.

Here are a few that stood out recently (some of the names have been changed to protect the nincompoops):

* The guy who was survived by "five grandchildren, including his shining star, Monica." Well, Grandpop, that must have made the other four grandkids feel just swell. Way to leave a legacy of passive-aggressive favoritism - bet that'll make for some festive holiday gatherings when the duller descendents start mumbling around the family table about that uber-annoying little brat Monica..." 

* In a similar fashion, the deceased who was described as "Grandfather of Gordon Charles and many other grandchildren." Again, either Gordon paid for the death notice (they go for a few hundred bucks, so it ain't pocket change) or this was another Grandad who wanted to hammer home to all the other kids how he felt about their infrequent visits to the old folks home. Not only were they probably left out of the will, they were also dissed publicly in the obit, so who says ya can't make an emphatic point from the grave?

* The woman who, God love her, died at 102 years old and was survived, God love him, by her 104 year old brother. Now that shows a family with some fortitude, nothing a World War or two could knock down. Hope bro was OK without his little sis around...

* Another hearty soul, a 104 year old man who listed his survivors in this order: His sisters, his brothers, his wife and his "beloved childhood dog, Comanche Nicodemus." Hey, the wife was listed after his siblings, but at least she got a mention before the dog who died eight decades ago...

The last words that are written about a person say a lot about them.

My dear old Mum died 20 years ago this Thanksgiving and to this day I have her death notice tucked away in my jewelry box. It's a very brief, ordinary obit that still holds some very chilling words for us.

But although gone, she is certainly not forgotten, and two decades later I remember, quote and talk about her more with a smile than a tear.

So here's to you, Mommy Bones, for providing us with a great Mom and for giving us a penchant for reading colorful obituaries.

For all of that and much, much more, we are truly thankful.