Senior Living in Lincoln, NE – 2017
Particularly during the winter months and the holiday season, it’s a time of year when it’s important to keep our senior loved ones and even beyond that, our senior neighbors here in our community, in mind. There are many things we can do help brighten a day, meet a need, prepare for what’s to come, and so on.
Kicking it off how the winter weather can impact daily life for seniors and planning accordingly, Natalie Leon with Visiting Angels advises, “Freezing rain, extreme cold, and snowstorms; winter weather can be dangerous. While winter weather dangers vary across the state, nearly all Nebraskans are likely to face some type of severe winter weather. This time last year, we saw record-breaking temperatures, rainfall, and snow across the country. While everyone should be aware of weather dangers, the threat can be especially dire if you’re a senior citizen who may be less mobile in and outside your home, which makes you considerably more at-risk during weather emergencies. Seniors can be at greater risk for several reasons. One is existing health problems worsening in extreme temperatures. Or, it may be more difficult for them to evacuate or prepare their homes when severe weather threatens. Winter storms care range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, ice, sleet, and freezing rain. Seniors are the most likely to require assistance, can sometimes need monitoring, in the colder months.”
As such, she provides the following tips for winter storms and extreme cold:
Prepare Before Storms & Extreme Cold
- Before winter approaches, add the following supplies to your emergency kit:
- Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways.
- Sand to improve traction.
- Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
- Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off.
- Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
- Make a family communications plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know what to do in case of an emergency.
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
- Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supply kit in your vehicle.
- Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather.
Winterize Your Home
- Extend the life of your fuel supply; insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
- Clear rain gutters, repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
- Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
- All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
- Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
- Hire a contractor to check the structural integrity of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow – or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.
As far as wellbeing in other areas is concerned, Leon also mentions, “The most serious, yet most treatable, senior health issue this time of year is loneliness. While Americans tend to associate the holidays with togetherness, sharing, joyful occasions and feelings of warmth and happiness, the season can also worsen feelings of loneliness, disappointment, and isolation for some people – especially older adults. Loneliness is not only bad for seniors’ mental health; it can affect their physical wellbeing as well. Current research illustrates the link between loneliness and the advancement of dementia, deterioration of physical health and shortened lifespans. Conversely, multiple studies show feeling connected and happy is good for your health and can lead to a longer lifespan. What’s more, happiness really can be contagious. In fact, one study by researchers at the University of California and Harvard University found surrounding yourself with happy people can make you more likely to become happy yourself. Emotional ties are even more important for seniors.”
“The lack of socialization and isolation are two issues that affect seniors living in their homes, especially during the holidays and winter months,” Barb Tyler with The Woodlands at Hillcrest also emphasizes. “It is harder for friends and close family members to get out to see loved ones, as they are all often the same age. Furthermore, unless medications are mailed to them directly, those may not get re-filled in the appropriate time frame. There are also various recommended therapies that may be put off if the senior can’t get out due to health reasons or fear of falling. All of this may lead to depression and anxiety.
Day services are available to seniors, often with transportation provided. Even a respite stay (short term) for the winter months can provide not only the company of others, but good nutrition and activities that are enjoyable. 2018 brings more senior communities to Lincoln; whether an independent living, assisted living, skilled care, rehab, or memory care community, it is important to educate yourself on the different offerings. Learn the differences between them, and know what a loved one needs in the way of care. There can be huge financial saving to a family just by the acuity level that the community can accept.
Moreover, anything that has to do with offering your time and companionship is always greatly appreciated. Consider adopting a grandparent or elderly neighbor during the winter season; it will bring you just as much enjoyment as it will give the recipient, which is the gift of your time and attention! Learn about their past; you may find out some amazing stories about them in the way of their former employment, military service, family members, etc. Help them record their memories as a gift for their family who may live far away, scoop a sidewalk, or bring them a favorite book. Or you could get involved with a program like Meals on Wheels, where volunteers help check on seniors in their homes while providing a delicious meal at the same time. You are the best gift available!
At The Woodlands at Hillcrest, we are starting our ‘dusty shoe’ tours and volunteers are welcome to assist us with families who want to check out our community! They could serve the refreshments that will be offered as the tours occur. Those who wish to volunteer are welcome to call me at (402) 261-0261 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
In agreement, Amy Fish with Lancaster Rehabilitation Center adds, “Feeling love and compassion is important for seniors to feel every day of the year, but especially during the holiday season. Memories made during the holiday season last forever, and are important for seniors to continue to experience. The holidays seem to be overbooked with parties and activities, it’s important to plan in advance to make that special time happen.
Getting out and about in the winter months can be treacherous for anyone, let alone for those who have physical limitations or safety concerns. Therefore, before deciding to make that trip to the store or medical appointment, seniors need to be sure the route will be free of obstacles like snow banks or icy sidewalks. Volunteering to clean the drive or sidewalk for a senior is a kind gesture and may allow them to make even simple trips to the mailbox worry free. Another kind gesture would be offering to assist them with their travel needs, or just stopping by to pass the time.
The cold and dangers of winter can isolate seniors, making simple tasks more difficult. It is important to lean on the many resources our community offers to seniors every day, including things like Meals on Wheels and home health care services. At Lancaster Rehabilitation Center, we also offer short-term respite stays, where seniors can take up temporary residence until spring arrives. That way, they get all the comforts of home, plus an actively engaged activity program, and delicious home-cooked meals!
Often, access to services is directly tied to reimbursement from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Reimbursement concerns are always high on our list of priorities to monitor, as to ensure our most frail and vulnerable elders are taken care of with the health care services they deserve.
Lancaster Rehabilitation Center is the largest skilled nursing facility in the state of Nebraska. This allows for us to provide for all skilled healthcare services under one roof including traditional long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, along with memory and behavioral support. Call us anytime. We’re here to help! Furthermore, the Lancaster Rehabilitation family is thankful for the many community volunteers who give of their time, talents, and monetary donations to ensure our residents have gifts to open Christmas day. Together we continue to make memorable moments happen on our campus.”
Expanding on the opportunities to make a contribution during the holidays, Sara Sutter with Lancaster Rehabilitation Center adds, “Volunteers play a vital role in the quality of life of seniors during the holiday season in several ways. Many seniors do not have family nearby to visit them during the holiday season, so our volunteers help provide comfort during the holidays by visiting with residents, helping out with seasonal events and even donating items to be given to our residents for holiday gifts.
To assist elders in the community, volunteering to take a simple Sunday evening drive around town to see the holiday lights is a fun, stress-free activity. In addition, there is a variety of holiday musical performances and religious offerings to keep seniors active and involved throughout the holidays. We are fortunate to have several music groups volunteer their time to come and perform holiday concerts for us.
Regarding volunteer opportunities, we are always seeking volunteers to come in and visit with our residents or assist with holiday festivities! If you are interested in volunteering, you can go to www.lancasterrc.com to print out a volunteer application, stop by the front desk, or contact me at email@example.com!”
“As seniors look toward the holidays, they often think of their family traditions changing,” adds Robbie Nathan with Bridge to Better Living. “The realization of families being busy with their own children and perhaps less or no opportunity for everyone to celebrate together, especially when members are far away, can be tough. As such, depression is common during these times. It is important to be active and enjoy holiday celebrations while staying in contact with friends and family. Being socially active combats loneliness and living close to peers is comforting. Seniors who have delayed moving into a senior retirement community suddenly realize the winter weather is just around the corner and worry about transportation, the ability to have healthy meals, and home maintenance. Bridge to Better Living, at no cost, lightens their stress and anxiety by assisting them to find the best community for their needs where they are well cared for, warm and safe. We are able to refer local resources to help downsize and organize for moves.
There is a saying ‘The best gift of all is the presence of family and friends wrapped in love.’ Take time to drop a note, phone call or visit those who are unable for any reason to join in the celebrations. Remember to plan ahead and be certain those you love are enjoying their holidays. Also, it’s advised to plan ahead to find a senior community offering fellowship during the holidays and every day. Living with peers and knowing you are safe and stress-free is a gift in itself. Peace of mind occurs when living with friends who have the same interests and situations as you or your loved one do. As was previously mentioned, Lincoln will be welcoming several new communities in 2018. Bridge to Better Living will be working with all of them and will know what amenities and services they offer. Use a consultant such as those at Bridge to Better Living to find the best community that will allow you to maintain your quality of life.”
Seniors look forward to holiday gatherings with family and friends just as much as anyone else, if not more so. Make sure to involve them in activities and gatherings and find things that they are able to help with during your time spent together. Everyone wants to feel needed. It is so important to ensure that seniors don’t feel isolated and lonely during this time. “People with hearing loss gradually begin to isolate themselves,” says Leslie Frank MS, CCC-A with Nebraska Hearing Center. “Your loved one may not even realize they are doing it or that it is due to a hearing loss. Others may assume they are disinterested or being rude. The reality is they just can’t hear. Some even start avoiding conversations with that person because they think ‘they can’t hear me anyways.’ It’s a wonderful time for get-togethers with family and friends, and hearing better can make those interactions more meaningful. They want to be actively participating in the gatherings. If hearing aids can make life more enjoyable, it’s worth the investment.
The discussion with a loved one about their hearing loss can sometimes seem like a difficult subject to bring up. It can be as easy as encouraging them to get an annual hearing evaluation as part of their normal healthcare routine. An evaluation allows you to get a baseline and monitor your hearing every year. At Nebraska Hearing Center we offer complimentary hearing evaluations. Give the gift of better hearing to yourself or a loved one this holiday season!”
Keeping your senior loved ones in mind and being aware of and honest about their capabilities, and limitations, is so important in other areas too. Christy Merritt with The Waterford Communities also notes, “I feel like families often underestimate the stress that the holidays can put on their senior loved ones. Many seniors spend their days at a moderate pace, with time for rest and relaxation. When the holidays come, they are expected to be up and ready and out the door operating at a rapid pace. They are confronted with numerous questions and different faces and lots of noise. This would rattle many of us. Be aware that it’s much different from the usual day-to-day life and environment. Don’t judge them, and try to slow things down and connect with them at their pace.
Also, many times families are presented with an emergency situation and have no idea where to start. If you have a loved one who may be needing additional assistance soon, get educated ahead of time on what options are available and what the costs associated with those options are accordingly. Understand what insurance your loved one has – do they have a long-term care policy? Knowing at the very least the preliminary answers to these questions prior to an emergency will help a stressful situation from being completely overwhelming.”
As previously mentioned, there are many concerns that are specific to seniors throughout the duration of the winter season. “At CarePatrol we know the winter months can be very tough for seniors, especially those who either don’t have a lot of funds or a close-knit family to help them out,” says Theron Ahlman with CarePatrol of Nebraska. “When the temperature drops some can’t afford to have the heat up as much as it should be, or have no way of safely getting out to go to the store or even to shovel their driveway. We also see a lot of depression in the wintertime as it is gloomy out, and some don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with or are reminded of celebrating them with loved ones they have lost.
At CarePatrol, we work very hard to help seniors stay as safe as they can be, and to that end, we offer many different senior services as well as senior educational cards to help deal with many different types of issues that may be present or arise. With our non-frozen food program, seniors can have meals delivered to their door so they don’t have to venture out in bad weather. They are dietary-specific and can be heated up and eaten at any time of the day to help fit into the individual’s schedule. Our live call medication reminder program is a great way for seniors to be checked up on when nobody is around to do that, and that can be done one or multiple times a day depending on what is wanted by the family or the senior. These two programs can really help seniors be safe, and their families will feel much more comfortable in knowing their loved ones are getting good food and check-ins during the day at times when no one is available to stop over and visit.
CarePatrol helps find the safest and best care options, so we come out and personally visit with the seniors and their families about either in-home care or finding the proper community that fits their needs, wants and finances so they can be safe and enjoy life with others. With multiple new communities opening this coming year, we can really help with evaluating options and figuring out what each has to offer, determining which would be a good fit. New is wonderful, but we also want to make sure it is the best option and matches up with the senior’s care needs, finances and wants. As always our services are 100% free to those we help, so it is always worth giving us a call to discuss your options. CarePatrol is more than just a placement service – we truly care about seniors here in our community and currently, their safety in the winter months is our #1 priority!”
Since the holidays are the one time of the year where most families are able to gather together to celebrate, and may well be the only time this happens throughout the year, it’s advantageous to make the most of that time together. Furthermore, there may be things you notice this year that hadn’t been an issue in the past, but are now raising red flags.
“During the holidays, it often becomes more evident that our loved ones may be having health or end of life-related issues, especially when we are only seeing them during holidays, and quite some time has passed since we saw them last,” says Jodi Freeman with Roper & Sons Funeral Care. “Having discussions about end-of-life plans can be difficult and awkward at any time, however, they are critical. Oftentimes, holidays are the only time families are together, therefore becoming the most logical time to have a discussion that allows everyone to have their wishes heard. It may seem a little awkward to have these discussions over Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas cookies, but when the holidays are the only time families are together, it may be the only time to have critical discussions. While I don’t recommend jumping right in with ‘death talk,’ there are some great tools for starting discussions, including ‘Talk of a Lifetime’ (you can request a brochure from Roper & Sons, either by calling or through our website). This program is a great tool for having conversations about memories and the ways you would like to be remembered, which often naturally leads to discussions about final health and funeral or memorial wishes.
It is very important that loved ones know the details of your estate and funeral plans, including where those plans are located, who your attorney is, what your healthcare wishes are, including how critical illness and the end of life should be managed, and which funeral home you wish to use and all of the plans you have in place regarding a funeral or memorial service. Your estate plan, your healthcare, and your end of life choices are yours, but we do encourage you to seek input from your loved ones when it is appropriate.”
With the onset of winter this month and the fact that we’re already in the midst of the holiday season, keep these things in mind and don’t hesitate to reach out to our local resources if you have questions, need assistance, or would like to offer your time and talents as a volunteer. There is no shortage of things we can do to ensure our loved ones, neighbors, and those in our community are all able to enjoy the happiness the holidays bring safely an in the company of others.