Senior Living in Lincoln, Nebraska
The winter months are tough for a lot of us, but can be especially difficult for those among the senior population. This time of year, the Strictly Business team makes it a point to consult with our local professionals in order to offer guidance for seniors and their loved ones and report on all of the area resources that are available. From what do to when you’re gathering together for the holidays and notice signs that a family member’s health has declined or taking that opportunity to discuss plans for the future, to exploring options for respite care and companionship; from things to do in our community geared specifically towards fellowship and staying active/involved to the powerful impact that volunteering can make on the lives of others over the course of the next few months – our local experts have made sure to cover all of the important bases.
This month in particular, most of us are blessed to gather together with all of our family and friends. We share meals, play games, honor traditions, catch up and simply enjoy the company. We travel if necessary, going to great lengths to make it “home” for the holidays. With so much going on throughout the year, it’s indeed a challenge for such a feat to happen any other time. As such, it’s important to take full advantage, and that extends to certain things to keep in mind with respect to our senior loved ones.
“As you gather with family over the holiday season it can be a good time to evaluate how your loved ones are living,” recommends Michaela Williams of Care Consultants for the Aging. “Nutrition, hygiene and safety issues are areas that should always be looked at. Are your loved ones able to make meals on their own? Can they dress and bathe themselves? Are you concerned about their balance or a fall risk? If you have concerns then it is wise to look at what options are available. Care Consultants produces an ElderCare Resource Handbook that provides a complete listing of senior services in the Lincoln and Omaha Metro areas respectively. These are available in print and can also be viewed online at www.careconsultants.com.
Today, a move to a senior living community will be among the options, but not the only one to be considered. Finding a caregiver to check in on your loved one is a great way to ensure a senior’s needs are being met and also helps avoid isolation. Caregivers can help keep seniors active and engaged in the activities they enjoy. Care Consultants can find caregivers to help with medical and non-medical needs and they can work from one to twenty-four hours a day.”
Theron Ahlman of CarePatrol further advises, “During the holidays, many will travel to visit parents or siblings that they haven’t seen often, or at all, over the course of the past year. If any of those people are seniors, you could notice a lot of changes from the last time you saw them. As a result, you might realize they are having more issues than they have let on during the year, which can be alarming. CarePatrol is here to help those who come across any issues that need to be addressed. If necessary, we can assist the family in finding a better and safer living situation. Our services are always 100% free to the family or senior we are helping, and we know the area and local senior living communities. This can save a lot of time and energy, especially for those who live in different cities. We also help connect our clients with other resources that will play a part in the process, such as a realtor, mover or attorney.
When visiting your loved one there are a lot of different things to look for that are telling of health and wellbeing. This might include spoiled food that doesn’t get thrown away, unexplained bruising, trouble getting up from a seated position, forgetfulness, unpleasant body odor, dirty house, and poor diet. Those signs all point to possible issues and can signal the need for additional support, despite the person telling you that he/she is doing good and doesn’t need any help. As the largest senior placement company in the country, CarePatrol offers free educational cards for families and one of these covers 20 signs that your loved one may need more help, which is helpful to have on-hand when visiting. Everything we do is geared towards finding seniors the safest and best community and/or care services, and that can be accomplished within a day or two, which can fit into a holiday visit if needed.”
When visits with loved ones are limited to one or two times per year, the physical and cognitive signs of decline in overall health may be more apparent than to those who visit routinely,” agrees Amy Fish of Lancaster Rehabilitation Center. “You may notice hygiene concerns, or medications that appear to be mismanaged. There may be a lack of fresh food available, or a withdrawal in conversation on topics that used to interest them. If you notice these sorts of concerns there are a variety of senior services available in the community that can step in to help. Services ranging from chore duty assistance, all the way across the spectrum to care in a skilled nursing center, are all available to seniors in our community. Family members just need to determine the most appropriate support for their current situation, focusing on what works best for their current and future needs.
As the largest skilled nursing facility in the state of Nebraska, we’re able to provide for all skilled healthcare services under one roof including: traditional long-term care, short term rehabilitation, memory care and behavioral support. Call us anytime. We’re here to help!”
Specifically regarding the challenges and dangers for seniors during the winter, Fish says, “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 enjoy all the comforts of home, plus the opportunity for interaction and engagement in our activity program. Things like delicious home-cooked meals already prepared and ready to enjoy alone or with company can make all the difference!
During the holidays each year, the Lancaster Rehabilitation team creates a calendar packed full of carolers, cookies and Claus! We offer a variety of events and socials to keep the holidays merry and bright. For seniors in our community, taking 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.”
While it’s common for the patriarch and/or matriarch of the family to host the holiday gathering, other locations are just as prevalent. In these instances, planning to accommodate senior loved ones is important too.
“Many of us are accustomed to a fast-paced environment and our holiday plans are no exception,” says Christy Merritt, Executive Director of The Waterford Communities. “If you have a senior who is going to be joining you for the holidays, be aware that they may need a little extra time to get to your event. They may also need assistance if the weather is unfavorable. Offer to provide transportation if it’s snowy or icy outside and even consider amending your plans to make things safer and less stressful. Above all, be patient and just enjoy the time you have with them.
While many people look forward to the holidays, the one thing I have realized is that the holidays can be a very depressing time for seniors. Take time to visit them and take them on outings when possible. As previously mentioned, sometimes even taking them to do something as simple as looking at Christmas lights can brighten their mood. Watching movies, playing games, and sharing meals are all simple yet great ways to spend time together, during the holidays and on throughout the remainder of the winter months.”
“It is not uncommon for seniors, in particular, to become a little sad around the holidays and throughout the winter months,” agrees Connie Chisholm of Immanuel. “They may be missing loved ones or longing for the outside activities they enjoy in the warmer season. It is critical for emotional, mental and physical wellbeing to continue normal activities as much as possible. All of the Immanuel communities have a pretty full activity, event and wellness calendar each month. During the holiday season this calendar is expanded to include more special entertainment and intergenerational activities and holiday gatherings.”
Seniors may also find that preparing for holiday gatherings is more difficult or daunting than it has been in year’s past. Chisholm suggests, “Many times our senior loved ones are resistant to accepting offers of help with every day activities like house cleaning and maintenance or food preparation. However, with the hustle and bustle of the holidays it is a great time to offer assistance with meal and party planning, home winterization and gift shopping to help take the stress off the senior while providing the much needed help.”
Seniors look forward to family gatherings; being able to hear is yet another important part of fully enjoying the festivities. Oftentimes, a senior has problems hearing higher-pitched voices such as grandkids or women. Why struggle with hearing loss if you don’t have to?
Common signs to look for regarding hearing loss are:
- Overuse of the word “What?”
- The TV volume is too loud for others.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Your loved one appears to be able to hear loud noises, but doesn’t seem to follow conversations.
- Your loved one has trouble understanding a conversation in a noisy environment, like a restaurant.
Those with a hearing loss sometimes don’t even realize it. They tend to slowly withdrawal from social activities. It is easier than keeping up with conversations. Thus, they become isolated. “This is why we offer complimentary hearing evaluations,” states Leslie Frank MS, CCC-A of Nebraska Hearing Center. “I recommend that your hearing be tested annually. This way we can monitor any hearing loss. It is easy to do since the evaluation is free.”
As others have pointed out, winter can get long and lonely. “Nebraska Hearing Center is a very social office,” states Leslie. “Our parking is right outside our door and we are happy to offer assistance. We encourage you to stop by and have a cup of coffee and a cookie.”
You might be among those who feel apprehensive about upcoming holiday gatherings for any number of reasons, whether you’re a senior yourself or an adult child with aging parents. When we all come together during the holidays, this also presents the opportunity to discuss, in person, our plans for the future as a family unit. Although it might seem like an odd juxtaposition to a time of happiness and celebration, this is incredibly beneficial because it gets everyone on the same page and provides a clear understanding of important matters to come. Despite the fact that it’s natural to be scared of the things we can’t control, life is going to happen, and it goes on regardless. Being proactive will help to alleviate much of the fear associated with change.
“First and foremost, we need to remove the stigma from having some tough conversations,” encourages Beth Friesen of Oasis Senior Advisors. “We don’t like these conversations and they make us uncomfortable, but we need to have them. And we need to have them BEFORE we need them. Is your loved one safe? Are they lonely? Is accessing medical care or safely taking medications a concern? Has estate planning been done? Are there arrangements made for power of attorney? What are your loved one’s end-of-life wishes when that becomes a reality? And do you have a ‘Plan B’ in place? In other words, what if they develop dementia or are no longer able to live safely on their own? Develop that ‘Plan B’ by contacting a senior living advisor to help you put a plan in place for when or if it is needed. Perhaps one of the most critical things to know is that if total assets are dipping below 200K or already have, that ‘Plan B’ becomes even more critical for ensuring choice for senior living options. A senior living advisor can meet with you and/or your loved ones and make the complexities of senior housing much easier to understand, working with you every step of the way.
Friesen also touches on seasonal obstacles. “Winter months are particularly difficult for seniors. The shorter and colder days can lead to increased isolation and depression. Slips and falls on ice and snow are particularly dangerous and can result in significant injury and a permanent change in health status. It’s important to realize that while home is often the most desired place to be, it is NOT always the safest place to be. Living in a community with social activities abound, where delicious and balanced meals are available, transportation to medical appointments is provided, and even amenities such as salon services, and banking are available brings peace of mind and an increase in the quality of life.
Also, it’s so important to check on the seniors in your life regularly during the winter months. Make sure they have adequate supplies before impending storms and that their furnaces are in safe working order. Similarly, if something seems amiss with the neighbor across the street, do not hesitate to stop over and check in on them.”
Jodi Freeman of Roper & Sons echoes the importance of planning for the future in the immediate present, offering the following advice:
“Planning early and maintaining your estate plan and/or will, financial affairs, healthcare wishes, and end of life plans are essential. As we age and our lives change, so do our priorities. Plans made in prior years may change for a number of reasons, therefore keeping them up-to-date is key. It is also essential to plan for these things when our mental capacity is strong, because once we begin to decline, both mentally and physically, proper planning can become a challenge. Besides being challenging, questions about mental or physical capacity can draw criticism and concerns about the validity of your plans, potentially leading to arguments and disregard of the plans, and even legal implications.
One of the best things you can do to avoid missteps or miscommunication is to plan early. I know it is very difficult to think about long-term illness and death when we feel like we are in our prime, but that is the best time to plan. You have a clear mind and clear objectives, and you are able to express your wishes without confusion or being questioned by your loved ones. If your children are mature enough, have them join the discussion, or at least fill them in on the reasons you are making the decisions, so that they are able to have a clear picture of why you planned the way you did.
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.
One mistake we commonly see at Roper & Sons is not planning for one’s own end-of-life decisions, with the assumption that family is willing and able to take care of any final arrangements. Life is unpredictable – we always tend to think ‘Oh, I have plenty of time,’ until one day, we don’t. It is very difficult to think about our end-of-life decisions, without a doubt. However, it is even more difficult for families in the midst of the greatest loss. We strongly encourage everyone to make their final wishes known, through pre-planning at a funeral home. Planning truly is one of the best ways you can give your loved ones the gift of peace of mind.
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. We don’t recommend jumping right in with ‘death talk,’ but 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 into discussions about final health and funeral or memorial wishes.
In closing, please take care of your loved ones! Grief is very real throughout the year – the holidays tend to enhance it, especially when a spouse, partner, child, or grandchild has passed away during the year. Check on your elderly neighbors, your friends, and make this a true season of care!”
All things considered, “Communication is key,” emphasizes Rick Carney of Butherus, Maser & Love. “It is always nice when we have additional family members involved in the pre-planning process. That way we are sure everyone has the same understanding of how the service will go. Additionally, the children will then know where the funeral plans were made and not mistakenly make duplicate, and costly, arrangements with a second funeral home.
During the holidays is a good time to start this conversation. A recent study showed that seniors were better able to deal with these discussions than their baby boomer children. Children often think it will be too hard on their parents, when in fact they may well be the ones struggling with the process. It is important to have this talk, to know where important papers are kept and what people will need to be contacted right away. So often families are mentally and physically exhausted when the death of a loved one occurs. That is not the time to be scrambling for biographical information, looking for paperwork, or arguing with siblings about the way things should occur. This is a time when families should be supporting each other through their grief.
Currently there seems to be an increase in the number of Medicaid ‘spend-downs’ we are assisting families with, so that’s a trend worth noting. Your funeral plan can be a part of that spend-down and can easily be made ‘irrevocable’ so it won’t impact Medicaid calculations or be counted as part of the allowable assets. Pre-planning your funeral is a great way to avoid the inflationary impact on funeral costs and relieve your family of the doubts they may have about whether they did what you would have wanted.”
Along with all of the other resources that help guide seniors and their loved ones as they navigate life’s many changes, your attorney will also be a key figure in the management of important affairs.
Tanya Godwin of Vanderford Law, PC, LLO provides the following insight and tips on items that all will merit thoughtful consideration:
“Most of us understand the importance of planning for the future. We save for retirement. We buy life insurance. We create college savings accounts for our children. Unfortunately, we fall short of the mark when it comes to caring for an aging or ailing loved one. Most of us wait until there is a problem before we think of planning. It’s not for lack of caring on the family’s part. It’s simply because thinking of such changes in the lives of those we love is downright dispiriting.
What should the family do to better plan for the future? Seniors and their loved ones need to prepare a caregiving plan (including their estate plan), and regularly reevaluate these plans. No one looks forward to implementing their caregiving plan, however when a crisis occurs, it is much easier to take action with both blueprints in place. The hardest part of preparing such plans: Having the opening conversation with your loved one to start the ball rolling.
What should be avoided during this planning process? Missteps that people commonly take while planning for the future tend to be at the hands of the caregivers. They are innocent missteps, as the caregivers’ intentions for their loved ones are nothing but the best. However, it is important the caregiving plan be based solely on the wishes of the person who will be receiving the care, and not on those of the caregiver. Even with the best of intentions, a caregiver should never intervene in the lives of their loved ones, or create a caregiving plan, without the direct knowledge and express consent of the individual who will be receiving the care. This is not only for the protection of the interests and needs of the person being cared for; it is also for the legal protection of the caregiver. The courts, various elder care services, and financial institutions are quite vigilant when it comes to elder neglect, abuse, and fraud. A well-intended caregiver could find themselves in legal trouble if they are acting on behalf of the person being cared for without the legal authority to do so. Official papers as simple as the execution of Power of Attorney documents, to the more complex process of guardianship (if necessary), are intended to assist and support the loved one needing care, while granting legal authority to the caregiver to best provide for their loved one’s needs.
Now is the time to start discussing a caregiving and estate plan with your loved ones. Any member of the family can start that conversation, and participate in the creation of an estate plan and caregiving plan based on the wishes and needs of the individual who will receive the care. In truth, most healthy, independent adults would rather not talk about the “what if’s” life may have in store for them. No adult child of aging parents wants to admit their fiercely independent, stronghold-in-the-storm mother and/or father might need substantial help someday. Yet, the conversation must take place, and both a caregiving and estate plan must be created. So, where do you start?
Select the best person to start this conversation, and determine the most significant priorities and concerns for your loved one. There are numerous ways to conduct this type of planning conference with your loved one, while including all family members who wish to participate. You may wish to take advantage of the holiday season and host a family meeting while everyone is gathered together. For families with members spread out across the miles, a family conference call may best meet the needs of all involved. Another option may be to have a series of email conversations, which will not only assist in preparation of the written summary of the caregiving plan and expectations for estate planning, but will keep everyone informed of any changes that occur. The end goal is both a caregiving and estate plan that ensures all the wishes and needs of your loved one will be represented and respected.
Finally, be realistic about the process for creating a caregiver plan. A good estate planning attorney should make the estate plan process fairly smooth and painless. However, the caregiving conversation will likely require more than one conversation with your loved one and family members. It tends to be a process that takes place over a period of time, which is why it is never too early to start talking!
If you have not already begun, it is time to start thinking about what you will need from Medicare and Medicaid along with the other items I’ve detailed. It is not a matter of ‘if’ you will need it; it’s more a matter of ‘when’ you will need it. Consider meeting with your estate planning attorney as well as your financial advisor, to discuss the best plan for your long-term needs, and protection of your assets.”
Along with looking ahead, looking back and reminiscing can also be a double-edged sword of sorts. The feelings associated with loss are unfortunately magnified during the holidays, a time when we tend to relive fond memories of the past. While this certainly doesn’t follow any age requirements, seniors do constitute the majority of this particular group for the simple fact that the longer we live, the higher the chance that a loved one has passed before us.
Jolie Vega of HoriSun Hospice offers advice for anyone dealing with loss this holiday season:
“The idea that holidays are spent with loved ones was imprinted on our psyche at a young age. Generally, we celebrate and give meaning to these days with those who we call family. However, when a family member or loved one is missing, the holidays aren’t always a time of cheer and joy. Holidays, birthdays, and other milestone days can seem to magnify the pain of the loss we have experienced. We may feel sadder, lonelier, and may feel a need for more support. These feelings may feel significantly overwhelming especially during the first year following a loss.
You may be wondering things like “will this (insert holiday or special day) ever be the same without my loved one?” or “how am I going to be able to celebrate without my loved one here?” You may also be experiencing anxiety or fear about how you may feel on those particular days. Will it be a day of remembering your loved one fondly, or will it be a day remembering the pain of their loss?
Although it may seem appealing to skip the holidays, birthdays, and other milestone days all together after the death of a loved one, there are coping strategies available that will allow you to lean into your grief and promote healing while being able to incorporate your loved one into these special days if you choose.”
Her suggestions for coping strategies are as follows:
- The first year is usually the hardest. Because we don’t know what to expect, the first year’s holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and other milestones can seem overwhelming as they approach for the first time.
- Plan ahead. Often times the anticipation of the approaching holiday can feel worse than going through the actual day itself. To ease this discomfort, try planning ahead by using a Plan A/Plan B approach. Plan A might involve spending these significant days with family and friends, while Plan B might mean having a simple celebration or dinner at home.
- Arrange a family meeting to discuss holiday plans. Let everyone in your family have a say – even the children. Be prepared to allow compromising.
- Consider traditions old and new.
- Allow yourself, and others, to grieve. It is important to recognize that every family member has his/her own unique grief experience and may have different needs related to celebrating the holidays. No one way is right or wrong.
- Take charge of your social life. Although you may want to decline all invitations for social gatherings, consider attending a limited amount of them where you would feel comfortable and supported.
- Scale back. Grief can be exhausting-mentally, physically, and emotionally. Consider scaling back where you can. Perhaps you can cut back on holiday tasks such as sending cards, baking, or decorating.
- Honor your loved one’s memory. There are many ways to honor your loved ones. Go around the table and share a story, light a candle in remembrance, look at photo albums together, or make a donation in his/her name.
- Consider attending a support group.
- Support the grieving children involved.
- Be gentle with yourself. Accept that feelings of anguish are difficult to avoid during the holiday season. Do not expect too much of yourself, and recognize that you are doing the best you can.
- Draw comfort from doing for others.
Holiday Volunteering Spotlight:
There’s truly no better feeling than giving back, during the holidays or any other time of the year. There are many fantastic causes to support with your time and talents, and those that benefit seniors in our community who are in need are on that list.
“The winter months can seem long and volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and remain active when it is cold outside. Many organizations rely on volunteers and are always looking for people that are interested. Realizing what tasks you enjoy doing and finding a volunteering opportunity that matches those should help in making volunteering a habit. The ElderCare Resource Handbook offers a listing of local volunteer opportunities and can be viewed at www.careconsultants.com.” – Michaela Williams, Care Consultants for the Aging
“Volunteer options are endless and probably closer than you realize. Think for a moment of the seniors in your life. Perhaps they are your relatives. But they can also be your neighbors, people you used to work with, they may attend (or used to attend) your church or place of worship. I would encourage you to reach out to them and see how you can get involved. Perhaps they need snow removal during the winter or transportation to church or medical appointments. Perhaps they would just like a visitor to share a cup of coffee with on a cold winter morning. If each person can touch one other person in some way, we can all make a big impact collectively.” – Beth Friesen, Oasis Senior Advisors
“Volunteers provide companionship and love for seniors throughout the year and especially during the holidays. They are able to be a friend in need to many of our residents here at Lancaster Rehabilitation Center. Around the holiday season, there are a number of volunteer groups that provide music entertainment and religious services to residents. Volunteers also come in to assist with activities, provide personal visits, and simply share their love. The first step for a prospective volunteer is to contact Lancaster Rehabilitation Center and fill out a volunteer application. Once the application is processed, one of the Life Enrichment staff members will contact the applicant. A member of our team will work with you to find the best fit for an assignment and get you started on one of the most fulfilling journeys you can ask for.
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.” – Kallin Niemeyer, Lancaster Rehabilitation Center
“Volunteers deliver meals, run errands and provide companionship during cold winter months when the weather prohibits seniors from getting out. At the Waterford Communities we love to have volunteers help us out with activities and entertainment. To volunteer you just need to call any of our campuses and ask for the Activities Director. The best advice, once you determine if your talent would be well-received by this generation, is to have dates and times that you would be available as well as any items that you would need us to provide.” – Christy Merritt, The Waterford Communities
The holidays are a time of celebration for all to enjoy, but for the seniors in our community, it’s often a case of taking the good with the bad. As is evident based on the wide variety of information provided by our local professionals, there’s a lot to think about and be aware of during an already busy time of year when it’s easy to get caught up in our own stuff of life. We encourage everyone to take a step back and be thoughtful of those who may easily get overlooked during all of the hustle and bustle while also looking to the future and planning accordingly for what’s to come. But above all, your thoughtfulness, generosity, assistance–even just your presence–means the world to our elders.