John's Blog
Written by Kelly McNeal  
Wednesday, 26 July 2017



     A new study done at the University of Pennsylvania added credibility to the discredited standing of the popular brain training scam Lumosity.


     For years, I have quietly ranted that the claims by Lumosity were misleading and downright mean in light of the implied benefits for delaying or even reversing memory loss associated with dementia.


     I paid for a Lumosity subscription (which was refunded as part of a federal settlement) and, briefly, got a lot more benefit from Ms. Pac Man over the years.


     If Alzheimer’s and global warming exist (and they do) then the claims for “brain training” and the experts who lend their names to the snake oil should be relegated to the bargain bin in the health food isle where the male enhancement products gather dust.


     The International Institute of False Hopes churns out products and services with a frenzy in response to PT Barnum’s famous observation, “There’s a sucker born every minute” (thanks Wiki).


     I’m particularly sensitive to false medical claims about dementia, having spent the past 40 years immersed in brain/mind work. Whether or not other “enhancements” perform as promised is not my interest.


     What I provide at the Fields is a rational, comprehensive program to prolong the preserved cognitive and physical functions which are attacked by Alzheimer’s and other disease processes. Brain and mind and spirit and physical well being were unified in theory during the Middle Ages through the work of Rene Descartes and many others during the infancy of the Scientific Revolution.


     Fast forward four hundred years and we’re not all that much father advanced in theory or practice. The human brain is being attacked by a variety of diseases most notably Alzheimer’s and it will be another hundred years before our great grandchildren can read about the solutions to the dementia puzzle.


    Be assured, the answer won’t come from the charlatans of Lumosity.


     Meanwhile, a vigorous daily program of cognitive stimulation, sociability, nutrition, physical exercise and positive attitudes contribute significantly to quality of life for people with dementia and their families.


     The descendents of Ms. Pac Man- Alexa, Siri, Google Earth, and apps galore for our tablets to strain our brains don’t need to make false claims about their miraculous powers.


They’re just fun.  We play endless mind games and we enjoy nightly 50’s dance parties. These generate neurochemicals that the lumosity munchkins can only imagine.


The Graduates Print E-mail
Written by Kelly McNeal  
Wednesday, 31 May 2017



     It’s becoming an annual rite of passage for us to thank and honor a dozen or more high school, college, nursing school and graduate school graduates who spent a year or six caring for my guests at both Fields.


     This year is special, as we send off Christina B., who came to the dietary staff in high school and left with an MSW and a job on a psychiatric unit in Manchester.


     My father loved education, having been a Depression-era coal miner’s son in Northeastern Pa. and used the GI Bill, as did a million or more of his era, to change the fabric of post-WW II America.


     After retirement, he’d ride the bus from Scranton to New York City, where he had a NYC public library card and he hung around the world-renowned Public Library. Some summers, he’d register at Oxford or Cambridge and travel to England to study Shakespeare.


     In the winters, he was a substitute teacher in the Scranton school district and for years was president of the Scranton Public Library. For him, education didn’t just mean going to school. His education was a life-time process, an endless curiosity, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge for knowledge’ sake.


     I honor him, along with our graduates, each time Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance signals the start of a graduation procession.


     My father missed the I Pad and search engine era by a decade and was probably better off as a consequence. Part of the adventure for him was the travel for education. Whether a walk to the library in Scranton or a trans-Atlantic flight to London, the journey was woven into the fabric of the knowledge.


     The internet, the search engine and the technology of the tablet and Kindle books have changed learning for the better. Soon, global access to education will break down the cultural, racial, ethnic and political biases that hold back civilization from reaching its potential.

Here comes the sun Print E-mail
Written by Kelly McNeal  
Wednesday, 12 April 2017



     They rushed for the open door in the Activities room. It was April 10 and it had been a long cold lonely winter, to borrow a phrase.

     Actually, they were quite orderly. We had announced the spring “steady on your feet” test a few hours earlier and it was their ticket to sunshine: show us how much help you need to get out to the big courtyard and we’ll plan accordingly.

     Staff from activities, nursing and administration prepared the exit strategy: we have independent walkers, people needing one or two assists and the group known as mobile but not ambulatory: mobile in wheelchairs but no longer safe on their feet. In between, there are those with ambulatory and mobile capacity but they need walkers of some sort and are safer if a staff person is within reach.

     Seventy degrees of sunshine elicits gasps of joy when it’s been 200 days or so since the last exposure. Memory is fickle- no one knows the last time we were all out like this; we just went in one afternoon, probably in late September and that was that.

     There are a lot of new faces, under the sunhats and behind the sunglasses this spring. You know what that means…we still die of pneumonia; it just takes six tries!

     You can appreciate how our palliative and hospice end of life programs at Bellamy and Watson have developed from this statistic: of the last 20 deaths among our guests, only four died in a hospital…

     The staff takes great pride in their palliative and hospice skills and we’re careful not to be seen as radical practitioners. When we get to know the residents and their families and their illnesses, we can provide comprehensive end of life care.

     If end of life care involves napping in the sun and enjoying a cool drink and a snack, then the Fields may be the place for your family.

     Bellamy has a wonderful group of male guests this spring; the most ever. We are dusting off the fishing rods and rolling the putting greens. For the Audubon crowd, the bird houses are already occupied and we have some resident warblers back for the fifth or sixth time. We’re on the take-off and landing routes for Pease Air Force base, so the crowd in the yard is treated to some daily displays of our military might.

     And finally, when the wind is right, we’ll fly some kites, reprising George Harrison’s joyful “Here Comes the Sun” with Lennon and McCartney’s obscure “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”

     “La la la la, life goes on…”

Written by Kelly McNeal  
Friday, 31 March 2017

The male voice was soothing: “please listen to the entire menu, as it has changed and expanded recently.”

     I was lulled into a trance within a few seconds of the third playing of the tape.

Twelve minutes had elapsed. At one point, I think I heard a female voice ask, “Are you still there?”

     There was no “press 0 for operator.”

     There is no operator.

     If you press 0, you return to the male voice… “Welcome to…”


     Now, I came of age in the 70’s and I have my share of voices. Carly Simon writing that song about me. Harry Chapin singing, “Hoppy, keep the change.”

My professor of abnormal psychology thought my paper on multiple personalities and psychosis was a research masterpiece.

     I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was a first person account.

     So, it’s not always easy to contend with the new voices, “You’ve got mail,” “in 300 yards, exit to the left,” Siri, Alexa and Google, among others.


     People ask me how Bellamy and Watson Fields are different than other facilities.

     Well, to start, we answer the telephone. We have no directory to which you can listen closely. We have live people. If I answer, good luck with getting your call transferred. If Kelly answers, good luck chatting about things you had no intention of discussing; hope you’re not calling long distance. In between, you’ll be seamlessly connected to you party.


     A real life, friendly person is your first encounter at Bellamy and Watson, by whatever means you make contact and it gets better from there.

      We’re pretty smart about what we do and we’re really good about telling you when we don’t know the answer to your question (but we’ll find out).


     Our customers (the families of our residents) need real people and friendly faces to compliment the expertise they expect about elder care. That’s just one of many ways that we’re different.


Gourmet Puree Print E-mail
Written by Kelly McNeal  
Friday, 24 February 2017




     I can’t get this pithy title past my censor, Lisa, for a radio ad but she’s out of the building today so I can get my point across in a blog and she won’t know how to take it down.


     I know that food is love because my mother and grandmother each fed me three large meals every day. It wasn’t until I got to Villanova for college and inquired in the cafeteria what time “snacks” were served, that I had the rude awakening.


     “Snacks,” a large woman in a white outfit on the other side of a cafeteria line billowing steam repeated. “Snacks…?”


     The Fields have four new chefs including two culinary school graduates, and for you Portsmouth foodies, one is descended from the Rosa Restaurant gene pool. The chefs are pictured elsewhere on the web site.


     Among my loathsome memories of my parents end-of-life care are several decrepit piles of food named “breakfast, lunch and dinner” at their respective facilities. In addition to my father wearing someone else’s pajamas, I recall him looking at the food pile then looking at me…


     My mother, at least, didn’t know what she was eating in the later stage of her dementia but I did, since she would be wearing it when I came to visit in the evening.


     So when my head chef, Bill Walsh, thought I was kidding about gourmet puree and I set him straight, we began a collaboration that celebrates fine dining to this day. And it gets better every time we hire.


     My parents dined on the QE II, at the Waldorf Astoria and Bookbinders, for you old food fans, then at KFC when it was all they could do to get out of the house once a day as their illnesses progressed.


     They’d celebrate at Boston Market, a ham joint equivalent of KFC if they were on a roll, and the two of them would split one dinner.

     I love seeing my guests eating fresh salmon, nice cuts of beef and pork tenderloin and pasta variations with sauces whose ingredients I can actually smell and taste.


     The medication nurse is also the bartender.


     And yes, there is gourmet puree.


     My parents would be pleased.


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