Thursday, October 31, 2013

* Happy Halloween, Brookside !


Tonight is Halloween and 150 costumed kids will troop over to Brookside Nursing Home and receive candy from the 70 residents who will sit in their doorways on the three hallways and hand it out, just as if they were still living at home.

The Town's Fire Department has raised money to give away two bikes and, to be eligible, the kids have to be at the Nursing Home and safely off the autumn-darkened  and narrow streets of my Vermont hometown for the evening.

In other words: Everybody Wins: 

Kids, the elderly; the Fire Department; and Brookside Nursing Home.

I know this first hand because every Thursday my Basset Hound, Nemo, and I go over and say hello to the residents.  

As we were leaving today we saw the Director of Recreation (who has been there for four decades !) and another staff member taking the bikes out of the nursing home's patient-transport van.  I joked, "You don't have residents who are going to ride those bikes do you?" and they explained the upcoming event to me. 

The staff is decked out in costumes for the day and the entryway and hallways are all Halloweened Up.

There's even a tiny fake graveyard in the entryway garden, with tombstones, ghosts,  and all.  

Laughter is the best medicine.

And kids.

And dogs.

Nemo D. Keane, M.D. 
(Medicine Dog)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

* Nemo, The Medicine Dog

Dr. Dog

Nemo D. Keane, ESQ., M.D. (Medicine Dog)

YANA: A Report to Interested Parties

Doctor of Woof-ology

The cognitive challenges of many residents in a nursing home make "breaking the ice" an awkward and oftentimes fruitless effort.

Enter Nemo, the Medicine Dog.  

My Basset Hound (Nemo) and I have been visiting the same local nursing home every Thursday morning for the past several months since we began YANA. We missed only one Thursday when the flu had shut down a wing of the home.

Our mission is to greet as many of the 57 residents as is possible.  Nemo manages to break the ice and engage those with severe cognitive and communication challenges, where I alone would simply be a stranger in their midst trying awkwardly to communicate.

Nemo doesn't need to explain why he's there: he just wags his tail and nuzzles up to be petted. And the residents doesn't have to try to engage him in conversation, although often many do manage to utter a phrase of pleasure or delight.

Our visit to all three wings and the cafeteria usually takes an hour, from (9:45 to 11:00 AM). Sometimes we go into individual rooms; many times we meet folks in the hallways or in the cafeteria at "coffee hour" which begins at 9:30.

This particular nursing home has an amazing feature: On a sunny day, the place is flooded with sunlight through windows on all four sides  of the building at once (is this even possible  ? ! ), almost as if the world is trying to invade the place with its own big smile.

Nemo has been a godsend to me in this effort.  I'm afraid I would not have been able to break through the social and cognitive barriers without Dr. Dog at my side.

Anyone who has a dog and would like to join the Medicine Dog team, should contact me at

Saturday, January 5, 2013

* President of Ithaca College, Tom Rochon, Joins YANA Board

Tom Rochon, President of Ithaca College

Paul,  [I] would be honored to be listed as a member of the honorary board.  It is a great cause.  

Best wishes,


Tom Rochon, President
Ithaca College

Friday, January 4, 2013

*In Memory of Albert Meade

Anonymous Poem Posted at Brookside Nursing Home

361 Campbell Street
White River Junction, VT  05001

January 4, 2013

Brookside Nursing Home
1200 Christian Street
White River Junction, VT 05001

Dear Director:

My name is Paul Keane and I recently retired from Hartford High School after 25 years as an English teacher. 

Ten or fifteen years ago I volunteered at Brookside  and met an 86 year old Vermonter named Albert Meade who grew up on a farm that is now the Fat Hat Factory in Quechee. 

I was moved to write a poem about Albert after he died called “The Mayor of Camel’s Hump.”  You can see it by typing this url into your browser search window:

Inspired by Albert, I recently formed an organization called YANA (You Are Not Alone) dedicated to assuring that no resident of an extended care facility goes more than a week without a visitor.  Type this url into your browser search window for YANA’s blog:

I would like to pilot that program in your facility since that is where I met Albert. The pilot would involve only myself for the first few months, but might attract other volunteers thereafter who I would train.

May I meet with you please to discuss the possibility of offering YANA’s services?

You can reach me on my cell phone at 802-***-****


Paul D. Keane
M.A., M.Div., M.Ed.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

* Harry B. Adams, Chaplain Emeritus, Yale University, Joins YANA Board

Harry Baker Adams, 
Chaplain Emeritus of Yale University, 
Former Acting Dean of Yale Divinity School
I will be happy to be an Honorary Board member of YANA.  There are obviously many people for whom a visit means a great deal.
Hope all is well with you.  All the best for the New Year.
Harry Adams


Update on YANA Honorary Board Membership

Dear Honorary Board Members:

Thank you to the dozen distinguished members of our local community who in the first 24-hours after being asked  have accepted the invitation to join the Honorary Board of YANA. 

Those acceptances extend beyond White River Junction and include retired television producer and author, Norman Weissman, Yale University Chaplain Emeritus, Harry B. Adams, and Washington Hospice chaplain, Rev. Carol Morrill Hartman* , a relative of Vermont's own Senator, Justin Morrill. 

Many thanks to you all.


Paul Keane

 Carol Morrill Hartman is Kaiser Permanente of the NorthWest Hospice Chaplain, (the largest health care organization on the West Coast), and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister (M.Div. 80, Yale Divinity School).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

* The Mayor of Camel's Hump

The  former Meade farm in Quechee, now the Fat Hat Factory.

Meet the Mayor of Camel's Hump, 86-year-old Albert Meade, who grew up on the Hartford farm which is now The Fat Hat Factory.
My friendship with him, which began in my visits to Brookside Nursing Home more than a decade ago, inspired the creation of YANA.

 YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a new organization dedicated to those who do not have regular visitors in extended care facilities. It was born out of my volunteer work fifteen years ago at a White River Junction  nursing home when I found that some residents go without a visitor for weeks at a time, if not more.
 YANA seeks to organize volunteers to commit to insuring that no resident of an extended care facility goes more than one week without a visitor.  YANA will work with only one extended care facility at first, to determine needs and resources.
 Thomas Mock, the Founder of ACORN, has become the  first member of  YANA’s Honorary Board of Directors (see  masthead, above).
 I would like to invite you to consider contacting me if you would care to donate an hour a week to visiting patients in a local extended care facility.