Senior Health in Lincoln, NE – 2020

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Senior Health

Fostering Seniors’ Whole Body-and Mind Health in Times of Crisis

All of the changes and challenges that come with aging serve up enough stumbling blocks on their own. Add to those the separation, fears, and other hurdles that arrived with the COVID-19 pandemic, and seniors are facing unprecedented obstacles, anxieties, and loneliness in their daily lives. What’s more, caregivers are struggling with new stresses and frustrations and need support. Fortunately, in Lincoln, a wide variety services, facilities, and other assistance are available to help seniors and caregivers here maintain sound mental, physical, and emotional health.

Kyle Johnson Care Consultants for the Aging - Headshot

Kyle Johnson
Care Consultants for the Aging

For starters, Care Consultants for the Aging (CCA) is helping caregivers get through new challenges by providing them with its annual ElderCare Resource Handbook, available online at no cost. Care Consultants Owner Kyle Johnson explains that the handbook is an all-inclusive listing of services, programs, and other resources available for the aging in the area. That includes government, medical-support, living options, senior, financial, legal, therapy, elder moving, home health care, transportation, and end-of-life services.

“There are tremendous services available, but it’s challenging for caregivers to navigate all the red tape to find and learn about them,” Kyle said. “By delivering them in a clean, understandable fashion in one place, we can help caregivers understand the services, resources, and options that are available locally, especially in a time when caregivers are dealing with new realities every day. With this information, we hope seniors and their families can make informed decisions, which have the potential to enhance their quality of life and independence.”

The ElderCare Resource Handbook includes services that run the full gamut, from medical care to food and nutrition, companionship, pharmacy services, respiratory and physical therapy, respite care, emergency response systems, hospice care, mobility assistance, adult day services, assisted living communities, thrift stores and donation services, relocation consultants, financial assistance for transportation, food pantries, and cemetery and funeral home resources.

It’s a Journey

Speaking of peace of mind, it’s something that certainly is far more difficult to exact these days, with all the uncertainty that comes with pandemic restrictions. However, senior services in Lincoln are finding ways to bring smiles and comfort to residents and patients they serve. Carriage Glen Executive Director Kim Kalhoff says she and her staff have been finding creative ways to keep seniors engaged while in quarantine.

“We’re doing a lot remotely to try to keep things somewhat fun,” Kim said. “We have an in-house TV channel, so we do things like upload exercise videos, how to play Bingo videos, different challenges, coloring contests, word searches, and things like that.”

Because Carriage Glen’s corporate offices recognized the dangers of COVID-19 quickly, it was one of the first places to quarantine its residents, and while they experienced some pushback from residents and families in the beginning, that let up a bit as time went on.

“We started locking things down fairly early,” Kim said. “We aren’t having any nonessential people coming in, we’re doing temperature checks and health questionnaires, and we’re requiring everyone who comes in to wear a mask. All residents must wear masks when they are out of their apartments, too. Initially, there was some pushback and some people wanted to bend the rules, so we had to go through a process of education.”

Carriage Glen is still doing tours for potential new residents but only for people who are truly serious about moving in fairly quickly. Only one person can tour at a time, after taking a health screening, and it’s not a time for “tire-kicking.”

“We have had to be upfront with people who want to tour because they are thinking about maybe moving in a couple of years,” Kim said. “Now is not the time for that because we want to protect our existing residents and staff first and foremost.”

Carriage Glen boasts 51 total apartments, available to rent with a month-to-month lease, with seven different floor plan choices between one- and two-bedroom apartment styles. It has apartments that range from 703 up to 1,542 square feet, with spacious open concepts. Many of the kitchen plans have a breakfast bar at Carriage Glen. An elevator serves all three floors as well as the underground parking level. In addition, the staff at Carriage Glen is made up of caring people who are committed to providing a warm, friendly environment. Learn more about this wonderful community on their website or give Kim a call!

Health and Safety are Top Priorities

Christie Hinrichs
Tabitha

Tabitha President and CEO Christie Hinrichs couldn’t agree more. In its 134+ years, Tabitha has seen its share of challenges, the latest of which are the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an industry-leading nonprofit senior-care provider, its top priorities remain the safety and health of seniors, their families, employees, and essential volunteers, so Tabitha is taking extra precautions, closely monitoring the evolving coronavirus situation, and following the guidance of national, state, and local health agencies.

“Tabitha has been concentrating on preventive measures since early on,” Christie said. “We enacted stringent precautions well before they were officially mandated by government agencies and industry experts.”

Those precautions include: no visitors allowed; vitals of each resident taken daily, at minimum; meals served in residents’ rooms; cloth masks provided to each resident; clinical staff wears necessary personal protective equipment, including masks and safety glasses when within six feet of residents/clients; administrative staff wears cloth masks unless in office alone, with door closed; staff must be screened and temperature taken prior to starting each shift; only two people allowed on elevator at once; remote conference meetings only; vendor drop sites created for deliveries so they do not travel throughout the building; and more.

“By following all instructions properly, we have the potential to slow down the infection rate and ultimately save lives,” Hinrichs said. “There is a real concern about spreading the virus to vulnerable individuals, such as the seniors entrusted to Tabitha’s care, and we do not take this responsibility lightly, not to mention the pressure it is placing on our entire healthcare system.”

Of course, the changes cause difficult interruption in seniors’ lives, but Christie believes it also provides an opportunity.

“Nebraskans should feel empowered,” she said. “While our daily activities are temporarily disrupted, we are in a unique position to demonstrate how the calm, collective collaboration of leaders and residents from our city and county can ultimately impact how our nation responds to and survives this pandemic.”

An Abundance of Caution

Planning ahead for reopening its community, The Woodlands at Hillcrest has put together a three-phase approach to open with caution and care to protect its residents, their families and friends, and Woodlands employees throughout the process.

Hannah Elliott
The Woodlands at Hillcrest

“Federal and state governments are releasing plans to reopen the economy,” said Executive Director Hannah Elliott, “and while this is an encouraging sign to our country’s response to COVID-19, please know that this process will be taken thoughtfully at The Woodlands at Hillcrest.”

Decisions about reopening each phase will be based on state and regional criteria, advice from public-health officials, and the health status of the community.

“We are all looking forward to the day when we can resume our lives as a community and gather with our friends, yet the health and safety of our residents and employees must remain our highest priority,” Hannah said. “From the beginning, we have taken on this challenge as a marathon rather than a sprint. There are no short cuts or easy answers to how we reduce our risk to COVID-19 and it’s as important as ever that we continue to remain focused on protecting ourselves and supporting each other.”

In the upcoming weeks, and until further notice, The Woodlands at Hillcrest will continue to follow the heightened precautionary measures currently in place. These practices include following social-distancing protocol and restricting non-essential visitors. In this environment, email, phone calls, and virtual visits have replaced in-person conversations but continue to provide ongoing engagement of residents.

“We understand the risks posed to our community from COVID-19 and remain committed to our processes,” Hannah said. “We’ll only begin to shift our protocols after we know our community is no longer at risk, and with careful consideration of the guidance offered by health experts. As the situation develops and we make changes to our protocols, we will notify residents, employees and families first—but to reiterate, we will not be modifying our precautionary measures at this time.”

Taking Care of Emotional Health

Visiting Angels also is focused on protecting its clientele and providing support for whole-body and mind wellness.

Natalie Leon
Visiting Angels

“The outbreak of the coronavirus is stressful for many people,” said Executive Director Natalie Leon. “Fear and anxiety about an unknown disease and its widespread effects on our lives and the world can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Coping with stress will make you, your loved ones, and your community stronger.”

Visiting Angels provides companion care and personal-care services with specialized programs to foster independent living and enhance seniors’ quality of life. Their home-care services are designed to provide assistance with the activities that seniors need help with to stay at home safely and still maintain their dignity. Natalie offers the following tips to support you and your elders’ emotional health:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Constantly hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can upset you and those around you.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy, like taking a walk around the neighborhood or reading a book outside.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and feelings. Sharing your emotions can help relieve stress. Use video technology to stay in touch with friends and family.

“Now is the time to draw on skills used in the past to manage previous life adversities,” Natalie said. “Use those skills to help manage your emotions during the challenging time of this outbreak. Our elderly population has probably lived through difficult times and may want to share what that was like and how they got through it.”

Oasis Senior Advisors in Lincoln also is concerned about mental and emotional health—both for seniors and their families looking for guidance, support, and recommendations as they navigate the major life transition to senior housing.

Beth Friesen
Oasis Senior Advisors

“That’s probably the thing I’m worried about most in the wake of this pandemic, outside of our vulnerable elders getting COVID,” said Oasis Owner Beth Friesen. “It’s the isolation, and it’s very difficult for caregivers trying to help make life-altering decisions to do this in quarantine, particularly for caregivers of memory-care patients.”

That’s why Oasis has been teaming with assisted-living and memory-care facilities to provide virtual tours for families, during which they can see the facilities, ask questions, and see what’s going on in the community.

“It’s worked quite well,” Beth said. “We have had families who have been able to make some good and rapid decisions about housing for their loved ones. In fact, in some ways, it might be eliminating some of the noise out there so they can focus on what they need to.”

Memory-care specialist and author of I Love Someone with Dementia…So Why Am I Losing My Mind?, Beth said she has been impressed with how well seniors have dealt with the restrictions.

“These folks have been through a lot, including World War II and the Great Depression, in many cases,” she said. “I think, in some ways, that they were better prepared to handle this than, say, Generation X, because they’ve seen more in their lives and are more resilient, as a result.”

The mission of Oasis is to positively impact families during a difficult time in their lives. This is done by providing a free, personal, and compassionate service to help families find the right place for their loved ones. Whether the need is for assisted living, independent living, memory care, skilled nursing, or hospice, Oasis consists of dedicated and compassionate advisors with an extensive knowledge of qualified senior living options in the Lincoln area and outlying communities.

Oasis Senior Advisors functions on a core set of principles, based on confidentiality, honesty, and a belief in everyone’s right to dignity.

Going the Extra Mile

Christy Merritt
The Waterford Communities

Recognizing that quarantine makes a huge difference in the activity and mood of senior communities, The Waterford Communities Executive Director Christy Merritt said Waterford is going the extra mile to support emotional health and keep residents updated about changes in restrictions.

“We’re really keeping our radar up to make sure that everyone has someone to talk to and can express how they’re feeling,” Christy said. “We are keeping an eye on residents for depression, but finally getting a little more sun will help. We can start opening some windows sometimes, or at least cracking them a little. Stuff changes every day, too, so we’re constantly on conference calls listening to the newest recommendations.”

Small in comparison to some other senior-living communities in the area, The Waterford Communities actually is prized for its size, as residents appreciate the smaller community that offers more of a small-town feel that many believe makes it feel more like home than a facility.

“We’re smaller so, from the beginning, we’re about connection and individualization of care,” Christy said. “In this time, it’s just a natural piece for us. We know if someone is eating less or didn’t talk to their daughter. We have constant one-on-one conversation, because we know every person in every building and we know their families. It’s more like a family here than a facility.”

In addition to contact with The Waterford Communities staff, though, residents are longing for more one-on-one time with their families and vice versa. In many cases, the isolation is just as hard or harder on the family members as it is on their residents.

“Some families call and email, and we try to send some form of communication to families regularly,” Christy said. “We come up with ideas for them to connect and keep ourselves available to talk. Everyone in our community has been incredibly supportive about how we’re handling the whole pandemic situation. They want their families safe, and my caregivers, nurses, and staff are making tremendous personal sacrifices to keep these guys safe. That deserves recognition. It takes a village, and we definitely have a strong, amazing village.”

The Waterford Communities is made up of three communities that offer assisted living and memory care to seniors in the Lincoln community. The Waterford at Williamsburg and The Waterford at College View are assisted living communities, and The Waterford at Wilderness Hills is a memory care community.

Taking Things to the Virtual Realm

Kelly Mans
Pemberly Place

At Pemberly Place, changes have been the order of the day in the wake of COVID’s arrival, and most of those changes involve moving activity and communication to the virtual world, according Director of Marketing and Sales Kelly Mans.

“In our marketing and sales department, we are not allowing any on-site tours of our buildings or apartments, as part of our effort to keep our residents safe,” Kelly said. “We now offer virtual tours, either through FaceTime / Google / Zoom or any other technology that a family requests. I have also made YouTube videos that I can email to referrals so they can view them at their own leisure.”

As for Pemberly’s No. 1 priority, though, it’s always the wellbeing of its residents. That includes making sure they have alternatives to communicate with their families, while no visitors are being allowed in the building.

“We are trying to accommodate everyone in any way we can,” Kelly said. “We continue to assess our COVID-related restrictions weekly and in accordance with CDC guidelines. As a mom myself, I know this can be difficult emotionally on each of our residents, so we are assisting them by contacting their family members through Skype or FaceTime, or even just bringing them to their window or front door, so they can see their family members and visit.”

These are not easy times for seniors or their loved ones, though.

“Touching through a window is not the touch we want,” said Kelly, “but just getting to lay eyes on each other and reminding them all, this too shall pass, gives us all hope for the future.”

Necessity Breeds Innovation

At Old Cheney Rehabilitation, very little is “as usual,” but adapting to COVID-19 restrictions has harnessed new levels of creativity that will even come in handy for the long term. Preventive restrictions are strictly in place, but the staff has found plenty of ways to keep the Old Cheney Rehab “family” of residents comfortable and happy.

Sara Bunting
Old Cheney Rehabilitation

“We allow no visitors inside the building, in order to keep our residents safe,” said Administrator Sara Bunting. “We do allow and encourage window visits, so we hope and pray for warm weather to stick around. We make sure people get to talk on the phone and/or video chat with family and friends. We do therapy in their rooms; however, when it’s beautiful outside, the therapist can put a mask on the patient and take them outside for a walk/therapy. The fresh air and sunshine are healing to everyone’s body and soul.”

While social distancing has been challenging for both residents and their families, necessity has bred innovation by the Old Cheney Rehab employee team. Innovation includes delivering an activity such as a word find, crossword, or daily perk reading every day at lunch.

The team also created an activity cart, filled with everything from sketch pads to word finds, decks of cards, magazines, crafts and other activities. Certified Nurses Aids (CNA’s) as well as other staff offer and distribute from the activity cart to each resident in the morning and afternoon. What goes in the room doesn’t come out, so then it’s theirs to keep.

In addition to the activity cart, Old Cheney Rehab delivered flowers to every mother who was an in-patient/resident, and had other activities specific to Mother’s Day over the weekend. This included related word finds, poems, and word games. A relative of Sara’s also brought in one of her horses named “Jewel” for personal resident window visits. Jewel visited each window and got to know residents inside their rooms. Our chef made warm, homemade, chocolate-chip cookies for every resident and staff on National Chocolate Chip Day.

“We also had several children make May Day baskets for each of our residents,” Sara added. “These were fun-filled baskets that were delivered on May Day.”

Sara gave special recognition to her staff for the sacrifices they have made to keep residents safe and healthy during this viral pandemic.

“We take the temperature of every staff member when they arrive for their shift, screen them for symptoms and then they wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before starting work. Staff wear masks at all times,” she said. “Our team sets the tone for our residents, and everyone wants to do the right thing. I ask that they go from work to home and from home to work. We communicate daily on new procedures and protocols that continue to keep those in our care safe. They’ve sacrificed tremendously for the sake of everyone’s safety, and I’m grateful for them!”

For quick, seamless admissions, Old Cheney Rehabilitation has put into place a new dedicated admissions cell phone. A member of the admissions staff carries this phone 24/7 to ensure swift response to requests for admissions—(531) 229-3773.

The dedicated post-acute rehabilitation center continues to accept patients from hospitals and home-health referrals.

Digital Testing

In addition to stepping up virtual technologies to maximize seniors’ ability to communicate with family and friends, Hillcrest Health Services also is maximizing technologies for testing for home-health clients and care staff. Medocity, a leader in virtual-care technology, launched a COVID-19 screening and remote monitoring solution for Hillcrest Health Services in March.

Jim Janicki
Hillcrest Health Services

According to Hillcrest Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jim Janicki, the digital platform enables virtual screening of patients, remote monitoring of their symptoms, tracking of their vital signs, and interventions personalized for any population, including high-risk patients.

COVID-19 puts many of Hillcrest’s home clients at far greater risk, but this new technology allows them to monitor patients’ temperatures, oxygen levels, and other COVID-specific symptoms. Their screening program allows them to quickly identify those who require additional care to ensure Hillcrest is providing the right service at the right time. Hillcrest’s clinical staff also use their own mobile devices to provide self-reported symptom checks and ensure that they are healthy to report to work.

Of course, Hillcrest also has taken all other required precautions against COVID-19, including education and training for cleaning, team screening, wearing of personal protective equipment in all offices and locations, and suspension of congregate dining and visitations. While family and friends are prohibited from visiting Hillcrest residents and patients at its facilities, the staff is arranging virtual visits and encouraging family members to engage with their elder loved ones as much as possible.

“The Hillcrest Pen Pal Program allows family members, friends, or anyone to mail kind notes, photos, drawings, and the like, to letters@hillcresthealth.com,” Jim said. “Our recreation directors will distribute them to residents as appropriate. People also are free to deliver flowers or other sentiments to the front desk for delivery to residents.”

A Safe and Healthy Environment

Limiting any opportunities to socialize or gather together—even for meals—has been a challenge for residents at Sumner Place Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation in the Near South area of Lincoln. In times of crisis, though, they’re doing what they have to do to protect the wellbeing of their residents.

Megan Herter
Sumner Place Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation

“The recommendations that are having the biggest impact on us are the requirements that we prohibit all group gatherings, communal dining, and not being able to allow visitors,” said Sumner Place Admissions and Public Relations Coordinator Megan Herter. “We are working to comply with the rules, while also making sure that our residents feel as little isolation as possible.”

Sumner Place has encouraged family members to increase their personal phone calls to residents to keep them communicating on a regular basis. In addition, the facility is helping families connect with their loved ones via online video applications, pictures, letters, and online messages.

“We are doing everything possible to keep our residents active, while resolutely protecting their health and wellbeing,” Megan said. “That will always be our top priority.”

Sumner Place will continue to comply with CDC guidelines for prevention, including strict hand-washing procedures and wearing gowns and gloves when interacting with residents who are presenting COVID-like symptoms. With President Donald Trump’s unveiling of a three-phased “Opening Up America Again” plan, Megan emphasized that restrictions at senior facilities nationwide will not be lifted until the third and final stage of the plan, and while there is no timeline attached, it could be a while.

Guided by Creativity

When COVID-related restrictions went into effect at Lancaster Rehabilitation Center, nobody imagined how long they would last. As it wears on and on, the professionals who care for seniors at the state’s largest skilled nursing facility are getting creative to ensure their residents’ wellbeing and keep them connected with their families.

photo-Darcee-Fricke-Lancaster-Rehab-Center

Darcee Fricke
Lancaster Rehabilitation Center

“We’re constantly working to keep everyone’s spirits high,” said Marketing Director Darcee Fricke. “What was inspiring to watch was how our entire team pulled together, in the midst of the unknown, to find creative fun ways to keep everyone engaged.”

Lancaster Rehabilitation provides all levels of skilled care service under one roof. That includes short-term rehabilitation following a surgery or acute illness, as well as traditional long-term care, and dedicated neighborhoods for memory and behavioral nursing care. The center specializes in post-acute cardiac care with a dedicated unit for cardiac patients, and it features a state-of-the-art therapy gym, Bistro Café, theater, and Husker Lounge.

Darcee said the Lancaster Rehabilitation Center staff is going all-out to keep the mood and morale positive at the center.

“Our life-enrichment team is doing a fabulous job of keeping activities going and trying to get residents engaged,” she said. “Our mission to work together to lift the spirits of residents and staff has been an incredible blend of social distancing activities, community support and donations, and the continued patience and understanding of our family members. Everyone has contributed, including our own Senator Wishart who showed up one Saturday to provide window visits with a group of horses.”

Lancaster Rehabilitation is still accepting new patients and residents, but since it’s not open to visitors yet, the admissions department is doing virtual tours for prospective residents. The center also is still accepting patients from hospitals and homes.

Darcee wrapped up by noting that, “While our new normal isn’t something we thought would ever happen, when you’re able to work six feet apart from some of the best team members, it makes the change more palatable.”

Care, Comfort, and Cost

When the time comes to seek 24-hour long-term care for your elder loved one, Orchard Park Assisted Living focuses on what matters most: care, comfort, and cost. Its goal is not to feature irrelevant bells and whistles, but to offer up a community that feels like home—familiar, comfortable, and with friendly faces at every turn.

Founder Virgil Carner believes that health in the twilight years comes from a balance between medically appropriate care, joyful recreation, and the peace that’s found in the familiarity of everyday habits.

COVID-related restrictions can be rough on families and residents, but fortunately, Orchard Park has more registered nurses on staff than any other facility in Lincoln, and all residents receive 24-hour care, help with medications, and personal hygiene assistances.

Orchard Park has changed over time. When the community was first opened, it only served private-pay individuals, as there was not a state Medicaid program. Programs have changed as well and a waiver was developed by the state that allows individuals to have care in an assisted living center instead of a nursing home. Orchard Park now has 50 licensed beds, as the community no longer pairs residents together as roommates unless they are related—something that serves as a good health measure during this time.

Customizing Routines

Staying independent, in control, and having choices are some of the benefits of investing in Home Care Partners of Nebraska. Home Care Partners has some helpful tips for how to customize and personalize seniors’ routines to build the best day possible, every day. Whatever the routine, be certain that it involves some active movement, too.

Karla Frese
Home Care Partners of Nebraska

“Spending three to five weeks immobilized can lead to a 50% decrease in muscle strength, according to the Institute on Aging,” said Home Care Partners Managing Partner Karla Frese. “Lack of movement can also affect your organs, appetite, heart rate, and mental health.”

Karla shared a few activities that her team has been doing with clients, including baking simple recipes together, doing arts and crafts like knitting and painting, reading favorite books aloud, organizing, starting a garden, singing favorite songs, taking flowers to the cemetery, and connecting with family via technology.

“You can imagine the smiles we see on faces when they see a familiar face online and hear, ‘I love you, Grandpa!’” Karla said.

With her home-care clients, Karla builds a personalized plan that encompasses their favorite things and maximizes their activity, which can include anything from taking a walk to building a one-on-one restorative home-care exercise program.

“We begin the process of building a care plan by meeting with the family for a free consultation. We review their goals and find solutions. Each routine is customized to the individual. ‘What do you want to do today?’ ‘Where and what would you like for lunch?’ For example, we have a client who loves Runza drive-through, so that’s where we go for lunch. The important thing is to stay active in a way that’s right for you.”

Jeff Madsen
Right Foot Forward Fitness

Right Foot Forward Fitness Owner and Trainer Jeff Madsen agrees. While the fitness gym, located at 6333 Apples Way, STE 107, has closed down personal training for seniors for the last few weeks, they are preparing to restart those sessions soon, though they will look different.

“We will be masked and will be taking additional precautions as we move forward,” Jeff said, “but staying active is key. We’re blessed that nice weather is upon us. Get outside! Socialize in ways that are appropriate for you and where you’re at. It’s hard to be flexible and adaptive when the world turns upside down, but to the degree possible, seniors need to find ways to exercise and fellowship with other people. We are not made to live in isolation.”

Jeff says he’s been quite impressed at how the seniors he works with have responded to the pandemic and its restrictions.

“The seniors I work with have not responded with fear,” he said. “On the contrary, they have responded with courage and bravery! Reduced contact with family has been a very real hardship for all of us, but as a group, I think seniors have done an amazing through a difficult time. I do think, though, that the rest of us—family, friends, and neighbors—need to be extra-intentional about reaching out to folks.”

Right Foot Forward Fitness is not just a gym or a training program, it’s a community. Whether you’re there for a month, a year, or a decade, Jeff’s goal is to:

  1. Help you understand a better way to work out based on your age and the physical shape you are in, and
  2. Help you build relationships that will help you with your fitness journey, wherever you go!

The Voice of Calm

Amidst all of the changes and restrictions that came with COVID, staff at Legacy Retirement Communities has found ways to create joy and spontaneity amid chaos. They have reached out to musicians to play music outside, all around the building, so residents could listen from their windows and balconies. They also are helping residents communicate with their families via smartphones and video chatting to keep them connected to the world outside.

Jocelyn Fitzgerald
Legacy Retirement Communities

“Among all of the noise, we, as caregivers, have the opportunity to be the voice of calm,” said Legacy Terrace Retirement Living Advisor Jocelyn Fitzgerald. “The social interaction is the best thing we can do for each other at this time. While it’s important to stay informed, we recommend that caregivers limit media consumption, and even if you have to remain physically distant, continue to stay social with your loved ones.”

While many Legacy residents are not in fear, per se, they are seeking ways to offer help or be a bright spot in someone else’s day, too.

“Many residents have found ways to stay social and also help others by making masks for fellow residents and for healthcare workers,” Jocelyn said. “Residents are leaving kind notes of encouragement for staff and other residents to find. It’s all about caring and keeping things positive.”

Jocelyn has some words of encouragement for family members of seniors who are in quarantine.

“Stay creative! We’ve seen so many fun ways that families are showing their love during this time,” she said. “From yard decorations outside Mom’s window for her birthday to dropping off needed supplies, sometimes the small gestures mean the most, especially now. Don’t hesitate to call and ask to speak with a retirement living advisor to get ideas and resources to help your loved one stay healthy, happy, and safe at home.”

Founded in 1995, Legacy Retirement Communities have been distinguished as leaders in the senior living industry and have earned numerous local and national awards for their elegant assisted and independent living retirement communities, along with their world-class service and programming.

The four Legacy communities are conveniently spread across Lincoln at the following locations:

  • The Legacy, 5600 Pioneers Blvd.
  • Legacy Terrace, 5700 Fremont St.
  • Legacy Estates, 7200 Van Dorn St.
  • Legacy Arbors, 3777 N 58th St.

The “Something More”

Restrictions stemming from the COVID pandemic have meant changes for Hospice Community Care in Lincoln and its patients.

Rhonda Saunders Hospice Community Care of Nebraska - headshot

Rhonda Saunders
Hospice Community Care of Nebraska

“Because we visit our patients ‘wherever they call home’, we follow the protocols set forth at this time by their care facility or the comfort level of the patient and the caregivers going into their home,” said Community Liaison Rhonda Saunders.

“Hospice visits to patients may be limited in some care communities to protect the facility as a whole—and we completely understand and respect this,” Rhonda said. “This is a difficult time for family members with loved ones in care communities. They haven’t been able to visit their loved one for quite some time, and then to have them on hospice just adds another layer and really puts a strain on them.”

That’s where the hospice team can become invaluable for a patient’s family. Communication with the hospice team of nurses, social workers, chaplain, and nurse practitioner keeps the family up-to-date about their loved one’s condition and care. It also provides a sounding board for them, as they may be struggling with anticipatory grief, frustration, and other emotions.

“When it comes to meeting with a family, especially in their home, we want them to feel comfortable and give them choices of how they’d like to visit. Thankfully, we have many communication options available. We can use telehealth, Zoom, FaceTime, or the phone to provide comfort and information, and even a nursing visit,” Rhonda said.

“Our patients’ needs and comfort come first and foremost. Second is using safe practices, like wearing a mask and gloves, sanitizing and washing hands, and maintaining appropriate social distancing,” she continued. “In one situation, that meant having a meeting out on a family’s deck during a snowstorm. We talked about their loved one and hospice, then I gave them the papers to sign, and they went into the house while I waited for them. It was what they needed.”

“There remains a common school of thought out there that hospice care comes in just at the very end of a person’s life, when there is ‘nothing else to be done.’ However, hospice is the ‘something more’ that can be done for the patient and family when an illness cannot be cured,” Rhonda said.

“Hospice focuses on comfort, dignity, and emotional support and can begin far sooner than the last couple of weeks, whenever possible,” said Rhonda. “Our highest priority is comfort and quality-of-life for the patient, as well as their family members and other caregivers. We provide a firm foundation for them in a time of pain and uncertainty.”

Waiting to Celebrate

The folks at Gramercy Hill want to celebrate. After all, 2020 is the facility’s 35th anniversary, so there are plenty of reasons to party, but the COVID pandemic has indefinitely postponed their planned celebratory open house to bring residents and community members in to chat and share memories and high points about life at Gramercy Hill.

Brenda McIntosh
Gramercy Hill

“It’s our 35th anniversary, and we cannot wait to be able to have an open house and celebrate with our residents and the public,” said Gramercy Sales Director Brenda McIntosh.

In the meantime, staff has gotten creative to keep residents actively engaged.

“Angela, our fantastic activities director, has come up with some creative ideas, like doorway Bingo, and she meets with everybody one-on-one. We are helping with video calls, and we set up a special area where people can see each other through the windows and talk on their phones to each other. We have also been creative and have done things like a Mother’s Day parade, so friends and family could decorate their cars or just wave to their loved one as everyone drove around the parking lot.

Gramercy Hill also is still accepting new residents and offering modified tours throughout quarantine.

“We want to do whatever we can to help,” Brenda said. “This won’t last forever, and we are all in this together.”

Gramercy Hill’s spacious apartments provide peace of mind with thoughtful safety features while also offering residents sought-after amenities and privacy. Residents enjoy the freedom of Assisted Living without the worries and dangers of solitary living. It feels good to know that someone is always at hand if help is needed.

Our seniors are the heart and soul of Lincoln, and we’re clearly blessed to have such top-notch care facilities and services to keep them safe, healthy, and happy, even in the most difficult of times. Our thanks go out to every person involved in senior care during the COVID pandemic and always! You are truly heroes.