While there is not a specific age to qualify an individual as a “senior citizen,” Western cultures typically begin to use this term at ages 60-65. Many who reach this age are still in good health and continue to live independently at home. Others may find themselves in need of some assistance with certain activities, or their health deteriorating due to diseases such as dementia. Regardless of your age and health, or that of a family member’s, it’s never too early to begin planning for senior care.

If the thought of planning for your future or that of your aging loved one’s causes you to feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone – that’s why we spoke to experts from senior living businesses and services right here in our community to help you get a better understanding of what is available in the Lincoln area and how they can help you or your loved one continue to thrive in their later stages of life.

Holidays with Heart

Making the right choice when moving into a senior living facility is important. Many facilities have different divisions that cater to your needs in every stage of life. Immanuel (immanuel.com) in Lincoln serves seniors at three different locations, Landing, Grand Lodge, and Yankee Hill Village. Immanuel provides senior living options in independent and assisted living, memory support, skilled nursing, and long-term care communities. Each of the Immanuel communities offers a whole host of amenities, robust wellness, and life enrichment programming, exceptional dining, and spiritual programs and support.

Connie Chisholm

The holidays at Immanuel are an extraordinary time for both residents and staff. Connie Chisholm, the director of communications at Immanuel, gave us a glimpse into the magical time that is the holiday season at Immanuel!

“Our executive chefs create menus and services to build holiday cheer, our Life Enrichment leaders produce robust and active programming that quickly becomes holiday tradition inside the community, and our Mission and Spiritual teams provide a full range of worship opportunities and support throughout this time of year,” said Connie. “Recently, Immanuel kicked off the holiday season by hosting Mr. Gerald Charles Dickens, the great-great-grandson of the author Charles Dickens, for an exceptional performance of his one-man show of A Christmas Carol.”

While the holidays are an exciting time at Immanuel, they aren’t complete without the people you love. To show extra appreciation for your loved ones living in a senior living facility, Connie recommends giving the gift of connection.

“More and more aging adults are comfortable with using technology. They are looking for devices to stay connected to friends and family, up on current local and national events, and hobbies and interests,” Connie shared. “Immanuel community residents are going digital through our resident portal, where they can get their wellness and life enrichment invitations and program information, dining venue menus, and send messages to fellow residents and staff from any laptop or mobile device.”

After experiencing a global pandemic, it has become clearer that time is precious and we may not always have access to our older relatives, whether it is because of safety or lack of travel options. While they may be physically isolated in an event like this, having the option to video call or see photos of loved ones can make a world of difference in their daily mood.

Making Spirits Bright

The holidays are alive at The Waterford Communities in Lincoln (thewaterford.net). At the three campuses, residents and caregivers alike can experience a plethora of activities to bask in the holiday spirit. The Waterford Communities are able to offer a diverse and unique setting within each campus so that you can find one to call your home. The Waterford Communities offer short-term stays at any time throughout the year to ensure safety, especially through the winter months.

It may be harder to take your loved one out during the winter months because of the increased risk of falls. To combat this, The Waterford Communities recommends bringing the holiday traditions to your loved one. With the help of the caring staff, your loved one’s holidays can be made a little bit sweeter.

Melissa Vandeloo
The Waterford Communities

“Our residents enjoy a variety of activities, this year we plan on decorating our facilities with the resident’s assistance, and partaking in family traditions such as baking cookies and making holiday cards. We invite our residents to participate in secret Santa. We would love to have families send or deliver their loved ones holiday cards, or anything that their loved ones would enjoy,” said College View Administrative Director Melissa Vandeloo. “We will have Christmas carolers come in to visit, and will watch Christmas classic movies and shows while enjoying some tasty holiday treats. This is my favorite season! I am so excited to be a part of celebrating the holidays with the residents as well as the caregivers.”

While the holidays are a time of cheer, it is also important to keep your loved one healthy in the colder weather. Cold and flu season coupled with COVID can be a dangerous time for older loved ones. Make sure your loved ones are up-to-date on vaccinations and stocked up on things like tea, vitamin C, medicines, and disinfecting wipes to keep their homes clean and safe. Melissa foresees the upcoming season to be a challenge, so helping the caregivers at Waterford combat these types of outbreaks can completely change the season for the community.

Getting Nostalgic

Many of us have had to miss out on an important family event or tradition in the last few years because of the pandemic, but hopefully this year, we all get to spend the long awaited holiday season with our loved ones again.

Natalie Leon
Visiting Angels

It may still be difficult to get your older relatives out of the house safely, and that can take a toll on their wellbeing and happiness. When elderly loved ones miss out on family holiday traditions, or are unable to participate like they used to, it can lead to feelings of separation and even depression. We spoke to Natalie Leon, owner and executive director at Visiting Angels (visitingangels.com), about some of the ways families can keep their loved ones included.

“We can help keep our senior loved ones from being part of the statistics by helping them fight off depression over the holidays,” Natalie began. “While the family is together, bring out old family movies and photo albums. Tell stories about the good times and talk about the loved ones who are gone. These conversations can bring back happy memories. Honor the family and the memories instead of letting those thoughts of loss creep into the forefront. Play favorite music and classic movies during the holiday season when the family is together and when your senior may be alone to bring smiles instead of frowns.”

Natalie suggested watching old comedy shows that bring a chuckle, like I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, or Laurel and Hardy. Many of these shows can be found on TV, bought or rented on DVD, or watched on an online streaming service.

“Keep your senior busy! Find fun things to do to occupy them throughout the season and shortly afterward so that they don’t have time to let their mind dwell on sad times or losses they have experienced,” said Natalie. “These things include making cookies, taking a nature walk, writing holiday cards and notes, playing a game, visiting a museum, going to a local event like a parade or church choir, taking in a holiday movie, driving around the neighborhood looking at holiday lights and decorations, doing a craft project, planning a family meal, and shopping together.”

Natalie reminded us that the holidays are emotional for many people, and that having the extra support from a trusted caregiver – especially when family cannot be there in person – is so important. They do not take days off and can be there on any holiday as well. Their caregivers are happy to help their clients get on a family Zoom call so that they can see the faces of their loved ones, or take part in classic holiday traditions with them such as decorating, addressing cards, wrapping gifts, or just reminiscing.

Extra Help at Home

About 90% of seniors intend to remain in their current homes for the next five to ten years, according to AgingInPlace.com. While they may feel more comfortable staying in their own home, seniors may need extra help to keep living independently.

Home Care Partners (homecarepartnersofnebraska.com) takes care of families by providing quality care to your loved ones within their own home. They offer companion care, personal care, recovery care, memory care, and hospice support.

Karla Frese
Home Care Partners

“In addition to these services we also take pride in our care management. Care management solutions manage high-risk conditions and complex cases to help prevent hospital readmissions, improve patient outcomes, improve family communication, and customer satisfaction,” said Karla Frese, co-owner. “Our on-going collaborative approach of care management is essential to manage other conditions that pose a re-hospitalization risk. Oversight by a Care Manager reduces hospital readmissions with increased supervision and provides additional support with medication management, nutrition, and follow-up appointments.”

Since you or your loved one will be at home for the holidays, getting prepared for the busy period of the season can help you cope with a lot of the extra stress that comes along with it.

“Set aside time to plan menus and gift ideas—you can even cook some dishes together in advance and freeze them. This helps prevent the scramble to do it all at the last minute. Don’t do it alone. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, children’s school events, office parties, family gatherings, and travel can combine to make the holidays stressful,” advised Karla.

With the holidays comes gift giving, and finding a gift can be a challenge. Karla knows you can never go wrong with something sentimental, so she suggests a framed family photo could be the perfect present for a family member who may spend a lot of time alone. If your loved one has a lot of hobbies, give a gift that nourishes their leisure activity. If they’re a gardener, treat them to a new pair of gardening gloves or some new seeds. A baker may enjoy a new type of pan or utensil that could help them try a new recipe or technique. Seniors also need to keep their brain active, so something like a sudoku book or puzzle can not only be a fun activity for your loved one, but also a necessary tool to combat the risks that come with age.

Staying Prepared

If you or your loved one are expecting to spend the holidays alone, it may be beneficial to have a caregiver provide a little extra support. Caregivers can give more than just medical help, but can also provide companionship and help with daily tasks and holiday activities.

Caring Friends In Home Care (caringfriendsinhomecare.com) is honored to serve 47 counties in Nebraska. They hire local caregivers within each county to provide services to their neighbors. This allows the clients to have a consistent caregiver and keeps the costs low for the client as there is no mileage fee and no minimum visit time. Caring Friends will provide services for as little as an hour. This allows their clients to stay within their budget for their needs. They ensure that the Site Coordinator for each county develops a personalized plan of services based on client needs and matches those needs to local caregivers who have been trained to provide that assistance.

Family can begin baking early with their loved one to prepare traditional recipes for their family gathering and then freeze them to be warmed later. This avoids the rush and stress of doing all of the work at the last minute. Having a family member, friend, or company like Caring Friends come in ahead of time and do the cleaning before the holiday event can reduce a lot of last-minute stress. It is important to be watching your elderly loved one for signs of fatigue and suggest breaks or a midday nap during the holiday gathering.

Virginia Cole
Caring Friends in Home Care

“This can be a very lonely time for seniors who do not have their family around during the holidays. It is important to find ways to foster events that generate those happy memories of the past. Friends, church acquaintances or Caring Friends caregivers can all be an important part of this process,” shared Virginia Cole, COO. “Ensuring a trip to church services, a ride to see lights and decorations, assisting with baking cookies or a favorite holiday recipe, transportation and assistance to finish their holiday shopping, companionship during a favorite holiday movie, or helping the senior to decorate in their own home will all help to lessen feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

Virginia also spoke to the topic of gift giving. Comfort and nostalgia can be two of the best qualities a gift can bring, and Virginia had some wonderful suggestions for making this time of year special for your loved ones.

“A smart speaker will allow the senior to verbally ask for their favorite music to be played using simple voice commands. A streaming channel that plays reruns of their favorite TV shows and musicals, or a streaming movie channel that is running all Christmas movies can bring back meaningful memories. A warm, cozy blanket with some favorite snacks to munch while watching their Christmas specials will create a feeling of comfort.”

No matter where your family is celebrating, remember to keep your elders in mind while planning. The holidays are a special time that all deserve to enjoy! Make these special memories while you can, and they will last a lifetime!

Prioritize Safety

Beth Friesen
Oasis Senior Advisors

In addition to staying connected and engaged with your senior loved ones, it’s important to make sure they are safe and comfortable before the coldest season of the year really settles in. Beth Friesen, owner of Oasis Senior Advisors (oasissenioradvisors.com), gave us some insight as to what to expect during this time of year for seniors.

“This is often the most difficult time of year for our seniors with more falls, accidents, and illness reported,” said Beth. “If you think a senior living community may be in the future, consider a short-term stay over the winter months. They can ‘test drive’ the community and see what it would be like to live there as a full-time resident. This way they have transportation, nutritious meals, exercise, and companionship built right into their lifestyle. You will likely see a decrease in the amount you worry for your loved one’s safety and well-being during the winter months.”

When it comes to the holidays, they are often at the forefront of a senior’s mind, especially if they are not working or raising a family and are left with more time to prep and plan for the season. Often, senior loved ones are concerned about getting to spend enough time with their family, so keep them included in the planning and decision making whenever possible.

“Don’t assume they don’t want to help with preparations just because they are older, but also avoid overwhelming them with too much responsibility if they are no longer able to do as much as they once did,” said Beth.

If you are unable to be with your senior loved one this holiday season, consider an in-home care companion, or asking other relatives to include your loved one in the holiday gatherings. If a senior has a place of worship they frequent, Beth suggested calling to see what they may have to offer for the holidays. There are many resources available to help you keep a close eye on your loved one when you cannot be there.

Keeping Healthy and Happy

Deciding to leave the home you’ve known for so long to move into a senior living facility comes with a lot of trust. Trusting your family to stick by you, the staff to take care of you, and the facility to meet your needs requires a lot of research, understanding, and confidence. This decision is never taken lightly, so choosing a facility that understands how important this transition is will make it feel a lot smoother.

Tabitha (tabitha.org) features a myriad of options for senior living and services that are completely personalized to meet an individual’s evolving needs. Across the state, Tabitha offers award-winning home health and hospice care wherever you call home.

In Lincoln, GracePointe by Tabitha offers assisted living and memory care suites; Tabitha Nursing & Rehabilitation Center offers short-stay skilled nursing and rehabilitation suites; and residential-style skilled nursing offers added round-the-clock nursing care at the main Lincoln campus and at Tabitha at Williamsburg in south Lincoln. Journey House is Tabitha Hospice’s end-of-life residence that offers a peaceful setting and compassionate care in a client’s final stages of life. And in Grand Island, Tabitha at Prairie Commons is slated to open in December and will offer all of the services listed above, plus independent living apartments for those 55+.

Gathering with family and friends is a large part of the holidays, but going about it in a safe manner is essential. Health officials have been warning the public about a possible “tridemic” of RSV, flu, and COVID this winter, so getting ourselves and our loved ones up-to-date on vaccines like the flu shot or COVID booster will help ensure seniors are protected from viral illnesses this holiday season. If a family member is feeling ill, encourage them to FaceTime or call into the festivities to prioritize the health of the immunocompromised during the colder months. This also makes for a time of reflection and future planning with your loved ones.

Audrey Paulsen

“The holidays bring opportunities for older adults to gather and have conversations about the future with their families,” said Tabitha Senior Living Manager Aubrey Paulsen. “Having these conversations before a health crisis is important so families can fulfill their loved one’s wants and needs as their aging journey progresses. A lot of people say they don’t want to end up in a nursing home. Tabitha is more than that, at the intersection of compassionate care, genuine connections, and loving support that make a senior’s stay truly feel like they’re home.”

Loneliness, depression, and feelings of isolation in seniors is something Tabitha takes very seriously, as evident by the development of Tabitha’s Connector program to ensure residents remain engaged in lonely times, like the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially helpful when friends and families do not live nearby or are unable to visit during the holidays or for a prolonged period. Making the effort to send a card, speak with a loved one on the phone or have a video chat can make the distance between you feel a little smaller. Tabitha will make sure your loved one has a positive holiday experience no matter what.

“Tabitha’s Life Enrichment TEAMembers and Volunteers are one of a kind; they are fully dedicated to and immersed in the communities they serve. From holiday games and crafts to customized, festive menus and parties, holidays are widely celebrated at Tabitha,” explained Aubrey. “Additionally, Tabitha Meals on Wheels recipients receive special holiday greetings as we deliver 365 days a year.”

Next Steps

Conversations about death and what happens at the end of life can be uncomfortable and upsetting for many. They are also necessary. When we get to an older age, it is only natural to start making arrangements that we see fit. Funeral/cremation and cemetery arrangements are a selfless act. With this act, you’re giving a gift to your family and loved ones. Handling your arrangements beforehand can take the financial worry and burden away from your loved ones after your time of passing.

Wyuka Funeral Home & Cemetery (wyuka.com), located on 3600 O St., was established in 1869 on the outskirts of Lincoln. Over the years, Lincoln outgrew what was once the ‘outskirts’ and in doing so, nestled Wyuka into the heart of itself. The rural design of Wyuka takes you on a winding stroll, or drive, through generations of Lincoln residents which can tend to offer peace and solace. In 2000, the Wyuka Funeral Home was established to further be there for families. The Rudge Chapel and The Stables are other markers of the cemetery’s history. These buildings are still holding events for those who wish to take a step back in time.

Wyuka participates in Wreaths across America to honor those who have served, which coincides with the beginning of the holiday season. Wyuka encourages families to visit those who have passed and decorate their loved one’s final place of rest for the holiday season.

Stephanie Springer
Wyuka Funeral Home & Cemetery

Stephanie Springer, Wyuka’s family service representative, has some gift ideas for the seniors in your life.

“At time of passing, we see how important photos of loved ones are. They remind us of our special moments, occasions, and celebrations. I think it’s so special when photos are shared and thoughtful and warming,” shared Stephanie. “Everyone loves to see them, and I think they should be shared anytime during someone’s life. So, gathering photos together to make a calendar or to be put on a coffee mug or thermos, or even a drink coaster is a wonderful gift they can enjoy year round.”

Stephanie also mentioned virtual communication is a wonderful way to keep in touch, especially when family lives far away and are not able to get together for the holidays. Being able to Skype and video chat can help bridge the distance gap.

Know the Signs

Kyle Johnson Care Consultants for the Aging - Headshot

Kyle Johnson
CCA Home Care

Kyle Johnson with CCA Home Care (ccahomecare.com) had much to say on the importance of addressing all aspects of physical health for seniors as early as possible, especially leading into the winter months.

“Declining eyesight or hearing, mobility problems, and memory issues can lead to losing the ability to drive, an increased risk of falling, and everyday tasks becoming more difficult to perform,” he said. “These health concerns are even more important to take into consideration during the winter. Making sure seniors have mental stimulation, companionship, transportation for outings, and assistance with personal care or household chores can help keep these issues under control.”

CCA refers caregivers who are CNAs and can assist seniors with companionship, personal care, light housekeeping, and much more. They have caregivers available to help starting at one hour or up to 24 hours a day, along with access to short-term assistance in the case of an emergency. This flexibility gives families the peace of mind knowing their loved one is being cared for by a qualified and caring individual.

More Than Housing

When looking for independent senior-living options that include opportunities for engagement, check out the Lincoln Housing Authority (l-housing.com). They pride themselves on providing “more than housing” and nowhere is that more evident than at Burke Plaza, Crossroads House, and Mahoney Manor, where more than 270 older adults reside and have access to a wide variety of social and personal support services through the Resident Services and Congregate Housing Services programs.

The Foundation for the Resident Services Program is the Resident Services Specialist at each building. Their job is to provide general support to residents and offer a range of activities and programs to enhance the overall quality of life at each building. Activities range between pot-luck meals and garage sales to shopping trips and movie nights. They also plan and educate the tenants on the building’s emergency and urgent-response systems. The Congregate Housing Services Program (CHSP) brings the services of two full-time social workers, who share time between all buildings. These social workers are able to work with individuals who need additional supportive services such as case management, personal care, house-keeping assistance, and transportation. The CHSP also serves hot meals six days a week in the dining rooms at Burke Plaza and Mahoney Manor.

Making New Traditions

Legacy Retirement Communities (legacyretirement.com) understands the stress that comes with trying to create the ideal holiday season for your loved one.

Renee Pickerel
Legacy Retirement

We spoke to Renee Pickerel, Legacy Arbors executive director, about the steps one should take when making holiday plans.

“In order to enjoy the holiday season, we need to keep our expectations reasonable,” said Renee. “Our loved one may be tired and not want to participate, it may be too stressful for them, or maybe they are unable to participate in a big party and need to have a smaller get-together. Know what your loved one can manage and will enjoy, because the holidays need to be planned according to their needs and abilities. This may even bring a new holiday tradition!”

At Legacy Retirement Communities, they strive to continue holiday traditions. Activities include decorating, singing, baking, wrapping presents, having snowball fights, drinking hot cocoa, throwing holiday parties, putting up the Christmas tree, watching Christmas movies, and reminiscing.

“The best suggestion is to just enjoy the holiday season, whatever that may look like,” said Renee. “Don’t get caught up in trying to have the perfect holiday. Ask your loved one if they need help shopping, a ride to an event, baking, or wrapping gifts, for example. Make a point to check in with them often. Sometimes we get caught up in our own things and we forget about others.”

If you are able to gather with your family this holiday season, Renee also suggests having any important conversations that may be needed with your loved one. Take the time to visit with your loved one on what their wishes are in case of a major health event. Knowing now helps everyone to make decisions in a crisis situation. If you have a loved one with dementia, planning ahead is difficult because you never know what the day will bring, so having a back-up plan is essential. While these conversations may be difficult, they are important to have when family is available to weigh the options, so that your loved one’s voice is heard by all.

Programs for Everyone

Megan Herter
Sumner Place Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation

If your loved one is experiencing signs of memory loss or dementia, it may be time to find a home with dedicated memory care. Sumner Place Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation (sumnerplacecare.com) has specialized health care services and an emphasis on life enrichment for every single resident. We talked to Admissions and Public Relations Coordinator Megan Herter to learn more.

“We work hard to create a living environment that continuously enriches each resident’s life,” Megan told us. “Whether it’s taking a resident to a movie they want to see, organizing in-house activities or social engagements with the community, or offering daily spiritual services, at Sumner Place, we focus on personalized care. Our annual events, such as Senior Prom, Dog Pageant, or the Sumner Place Picnic, offer the ‘Family Serving Family’ feel that we are committed to. Social events and activities bring magic to ordinary days all year round. The holidays are no exception!”

During past holidays, residents of Sumner Place have celebrated the most wonderful time of the year by enjoying carols, fresh specialty coffee, and pictures with Santa and live reindeer. The staff at Sumner Place work continually to provide opportunities for special moments to their residents. Furthermore, the staff works to connect with residents on a daily basis, even through the smallest of interactions.

“Sumner Place also uses Buddies Forever, which is a comprehensive dementia program,” Megan explained. “These techniques and skills, such as getting down below eye level, using simple statements, and endorphin boosts, create a foundation for person-centered care. A program that we are also proud to be certified in is Music & Memory, which taps into long-term memory, an area of the brain unharmed by dementia. Selecting the appropriate music for each resident triggers pleasurable emotions from their past.”

Specialized Care

ProMedica Hospice (promedicahospice.org) is a not-for-profit, mission-based organization providing quality care for patients with life-limiting illnesses. They are working to create a stronger, more cohesive approach to delivering care at the right place, right time, and right cost. We spoke to Hospice Administrator Kass Mounce, who explained to us why hospice is important and how ProMedica can offer the care your aging loved one needs.

“Hospice care is a specialized care that focuses on supporting patients and their loved ones,” explained Kass. “The emphasis is on comfort and quality of life, rather than finding a cure. Hospice care enables patients to live each day to the fullest as comfortably and dignified as possible. ProMedica Hospice has a social, clinical, and spiritual team of experts who care for patients who use a team approach to customize a care plan specific to the needs of the patients and their family.”

ProMedica Hospice agencies are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC). While the Lincoln area agency is not yet accredited by ACHC, their team is working toward and preparing for accreditation and certification. This will allow them to demonstrate their ability to meet regulatory requirements and standards established by ACHC. ProMedica is dedicated and committed to meeting those standards that exhibit a higher level of performance and patient care.

As mutual care providers, they work closely with your healthcare professionals to make sure specific protocols are followed closely. Pain and symptom management is their primary focus.

“You don’t have to give up hope to get hospice,” Kass shared. “Many patients and the loved ones who care for them say they wish hospice care had started sooner. When you need care, we’re ready to provide it; any day of the year, any time of the day, we can initiate hospice care for you or your loved one. Treatments that provide our patients with comfort and relief can continue, uninterrupted, even after we’ve started providing hospice care. Wherever you are in your health care journey, we’re there to meet you.”

Everyone wants to continue to be healthy and live comfortably as they age. These local businesses and experts have the tools and resources to help you and your loved one do just that. From assisted living communities to home care to health and wellness, they each have so much more for senior living than what we can fit on paper, so be sure to reach out to them to learn more about what they can offer to you and your family.