It’s been said that the greatest wealth is health. Here in Lincoln, we are fortunate to be in a community with an abundance of knowledge and resources about how to stay healthy and happy throughout all periods of life. The senior years in particular can be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling times of our lives. As health needs change with age, though, it’s increasingly important to be well informed and familiar with the resources and tools that are available in our community so that we all can live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.
As Jodi Freeman from Roper & Sons explains, “Regardless of age, it is important to be aware of good nutrition, to exercise (both physical and mental), to be engaged socially, and to plan ahead for needs that will undoubtedly arise. As we age, our physical needs change – we need to be more aware of how our bodies react to stress, to accidents, and to the overall aging process. In Lincoln, we are very blessed and lucky to have easy, affordable (and in some cases, free) access to all sorts of experts and activities related to good health and overall wellness.
Some of the most important plans that seniors should make when they are in good health involve those around end-of-life care. Staying involved in the decision making process regarding where to live out your retirement years, how your healthcare needs will be handled, who will manage your financial affairs and estates, and of course, pre-planning and pre-paying your funeral expenses is very important. When we are physically and mentally sharp, we make better decisions and are more easily able to stay involved in the process. If we truly have a desire to have a say in our end-of-life wishes, it is important to start making those plans and decisions while we are healthy.
I feel honored that at Roper & Sons, we are able to offer informational seminars twice each month, free and open to the public, with speakers who address all sorts of issues, including nutrition, exercise, health care, retirement living, and financial and estate planning. Our website is kept up-to-date with upcoming topics, as well as our Facebook page, and you can tune in to KFOR every Friday morning at 7:55 a.m. to learn of the next week’s events.
I am also part of the Lincoln Caregiver Education Group – a group of professionals and caregivers who provide informational seminars and support to caregivers throughout the year. Watch for ads in various senior publications and on the Lincoln Caregiver Education Group Facebook page for upcoming events.”
Pam Carlson from The Waterford Communities also shares recommendations about how to stay healthy during life’s later years. “Mobility, strength and proper nutrition are essential keys to maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. Staying mobile will help to sustain your quality of life. Even if you depend on a walker or cane for safety you can still stay mobile. Walk to and from the mailbox, down the hall or down the driveway and back. If you use a wheelchair, use your legs to propel yourself to your destination instead of having someone push you. As the saying goes ‘use it or lose it’, you have to use what you have every day or you risk the chance of losing strength and mobility.
Proper nutrition and hydration also lead to a healthy lifestyle. ‘It’s hard to cook for one’ or ‘I’m just not that hungry’ are common things we hear seniors say but poor diet and hydration are leading causes of several illnesses and hospitalization. Try to eat three balanced meals per day. Even if they are small in size, make sure you are getting enough protein, fruits and vegetables. Also, eat with friends. Several Waterford residents state that once they started eating three balanced meals per day with other Waterford residents they not only enjoyed the socialization but also the benefits of proper nutrition and maybe even a little weight gain.
Get plenty of fluids. Aim for six to eight 8 ounce-glasses per day. Make liquids readily available all day, keep a bottle of water near your chair and bedside, consume 8 ounces of water at each meal and choose non caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea.
Daily exercise is key to good health no matter what your age. Walking groups at The Waterford meet each day and enjoy the fresh air by walking around the grounds. Whether you can walk a lap or a mile, every little bit helps you to maintain your strength, mobility and quality of life.”
Larry VanHunnik, Administrator of Sumner Place says, “Increased socialization, availability for health care with regular check-ups, life enrichment programs, meaningful work or volunteering all contribute to improved quality of life.
Living at home or in a familiar surrounding is considered a strong factor for independence. Even if that means home health care, homemaker services, friendly visitors or companion services and emergency response systems.
Lincoln provides a variety of community-based services that improve quality of life. Adult day service programs, senior centers, transportation services, meal programs and respite care are readily available. We are also fortunate that our community offers adult foster care, retirement/independent living, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and continuity care retirement communities.”
VanHunnik explains, “People often need long term care or skilled nursing and rehabilitation when they have a serious, ongoing health condition, or a disability. A need for care can arise suddenly, such as with a heart attack or stroke. Most often, though, it usually develops gradually as people grow older and frailer.
People come to Sumner Place because they need assistance with everyday activities known as ‘activities of daily living.’ These include bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, eating and mobility. Furthermore, people come to Sumner Place for short term rehabilitation or for long term care. Short term care lasts several weeks or a few months, usually while someone is recovering from an acute illness or injury. It is not unusual for people to come in for short term rehabilitation after hip or knee surgery then return home. For others, care needs can be ongoing. People with chronic disabilities due to stroke, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s find their care needs can be met at Sumner Place. Some people move in permanently if their needs can no longer be met at home.
People quickly learn from their interactions at Sumner Place that they can trust us to be who we say we are and do what we say we will do: that we are committed to ‘Family Serving Family.’”
As Amy Fish, Administrator at Lancaster Rehabilitation Center explains, “As we age, there is an inclination to slow down; however by staying actively engaged in activities and social events of interest, we continue to invest in our overall health. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill, improve your diet, or walk an extra block or two. Also, ensure you stay current with routine wellness checks with your primary care physician. A preventative, proactive approach to your care is always beneficial.
The Lincoln community is rich in services and resources for seniors. There are health and wellness classes routinely offered for free on a variety of topics. In addition, participate in the many health fairs and symposiums offered throughout the year by a variety of health care organizations. There is a plethora of information at your disposal on nearly every topic of interest. As Nebraska’s largest skilled nursing facility, Lancaster Rehabilitation Center serves as a resource for any type of skilled service need. We offer a wide range of services for those who just need a bit of therapy before returning home following a hospitalization, traditional long-term care services for those in need of 24-hour professional nursing care, and memory support care in a safe, secure environment.
In addition to eating right and staying active, look for opportunities to give back to the community by volunteering for a worthy cause, keep in routine contact with family and friends and ask for help when you need it, and look for opportunities to learn a new skill.”
Lancaster Rehabilitation Center recently celebrated National Senior Health and Fitness Day on May 27th, and provided a wealth of information and tips on how to stay healthy and fit through easy exercise programs, cooking demonstrations, and general wellness activities. Amy and the Lancaster Rehabilitation Center team encourage seniors to stop by anytime for a tour of their beautiful campus, and to learn more about the services they offer.
Lincoln Family Funeral’s Vicki Newman says, “With seniors it’s the simple things—it’s walking, it’s balance, it’s strength—it’s what we all take for granted when we’re younger, thinking I’ll never lose it, but you can. It’s critical/important to continue to practice and exercise these things.
To continue to be fulfilled and happy, it’s so valuable to get out and actively look for opportunities to participate in activities you enjoy, because when seniors don’t stay connected and engaged, that’s when depression and other issues set in. Focus on what your hobbies and interests are, and where you can go to do those things. For example, if you love reading books, seek out a book club. If you love playing cards, there are lots of places for you to play and socialize. Especially when individuals and families opt to stay in their home rather than moving to an assisted living or community type environment, it’s so important to continue to stay involved with others and with the community. We have great resources with Aging Partners that connect people with great activities. The most important thing is setting a goal for seniors to get engaged at least once a week.
In addition to staying active and social and making good food decisions, Newman stresses the importance having a will and a trust in place, and to have someone chosen to handle all of these things. She says, “From my experience, I’ve noticed that when people sit at home alone, there’s a tendency to fixate on death/funeral. When individuals pre-arrange and prepare for these, they’re able to focus on life.” And, when people use a generic or basic will from the internet, this unfortunately doesn’t cover all of the specifics for their family and situation. She says, “It’s better to work with a local attorney who can more effectively work through the details that fit you.”
Christine Vanderford of Vanderford Law recommends that it’s never too soon to start planning the legal side of aging and planning for later years in life. She says, “All persons over the age of 19 need at least a basic last will and testament to distribute assets at their death; and more importantly, these persons, especially seniors need a valid durable general power of attorney document that will appoint an agent for that senior to step in and manage assets and finances for that senior in the event they are incapacitated.
We offer seniors and their families the planning options that allow them to make decisions that are in line with their financial support for their health obstacles as they age. If they have some type of long term care support, through insurance, then questions about asset protection can be easier to answer. Obviously, Medicaid is a big question for seniors as they age, and making the most of their resources is key to any long term estate planning, financial planning and asset protection planning thought process. The earlier we can start that conversation in someone’s life the better! People should not wait until they are seniors to start this planning. People in their 40’s need to be proactive to be sure they have control in the security of their future.
The Lincoln Caregiver Education Group sponsors talks, seminars, guest lectures, and resources free of cost to those looking for how to find resources to help seniors as they age in the Lincoln area community.”
Katie Johnson, Director of Wellness at Legacy Retirement Communities explains, “There are 10 key items that the ICAA (International Council on Active Aging) noted as the top ways for older adults to lead a healthier life:
Think positive. Strive for success in all you endeavors, especially those related to your health or fitness program. Negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies. And never let your age be a barrier. Research has shown that thinking positively about getting older can lengthen your life by as much as 7.5 years.
Turn your spark into a flame. Do you have a passion, talent or hobby that you do well at? Nurture it, grow it, and let that enthusiasm spill over into other areas of life.
Keep your motor running. Lacking energy and motivation may result from challenges in your life as simple as losing focus on your goals. Don’t underestimate your ability to recharge through lifestyle changes and gain the energy to do the things you love to do when you want to do them. Having energy and motivation are hallmarks of healthy living.
Eat a balanced diet. This is the one you knew was coming: a balanced diet and healthy weight are keys to physical and mental health. Instead of the latest fad diet, start with a common-sense approach – eat lots of fruits and vegetables, go easy on the sugar and salt. Cut back on calories if your weight is trending the wrong way. You can do it!
Regular exercise. Staying physically active fuels the body and mind and helps prevent physical and mental decline. If you’re already exercising regularly, keep it up. If you’re just getting started, set realistic goals based on your own fitness level, then move towards them at your own pace. Just walking for as little as 10 minutes, 3 times a day is infinitely better than doing nothing. The key is to be consistent. Get started!
Connect with people. Keep your social life active. Go out with friends to see a movie or enjoy a coffee. Even better, do volunteer work on a regular basis. Research shows that people who volunteer have higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction than people who don’t.
Don’t STAY down. Everyone feels down at times, but full-blown depression is a major cause of disability and cannot be ignored. If you’re feeling out of sorts for two weeks or more, talk with your doctor. In many instances, exercising and changing to a healthier diet can help lift you out of the doldrums.
Keep learning. Studies show that lifelong learning is good for you. Learning adds a needed dimension to life, whether it involves staying in touch with what is happening in the world or keeping the brain stimulated. You can start learning new subjects or physical activities at any age. So why not start today?
INVEST in you. Shifting your expectations of yourself – then embarking on new behaviors to realize your goals – takes energy and effort. Consider your effort to improve as a small investment in a plan that pays big dividends. The results will be well worth it.
Have fun! A healthy life is generally a life filled with joy and laughter. So do what you need to do to kick up your heels and have a good time.
Additionally, throughout 2015, the Legacy Retirement Communities is offering a series of seminars titled, “A Legacy of Learning”. These seminars address various topics ranging from wellness, life enrichment, dining solutions, and cognitive health and will provide the resources to make the rest of your life, the best of your life. To learn more, go to www.legacyretirement.com/a-legacy-of-learning.
Emily Iske, LCSW Social Services Coordinator at Southlake Village Rehabilitation and Care Center says to seniors, “Just turn on your television and you will see that seniors have a lot to think about and plan for as they age. Every other commercial on the television seems to be aimed at older adults attempting to sell you everything from medications, to retirement living and insurance.
I think it is important for older adults to focus on what is needed to live a long healthy life, but to also be aware that sometimes there are bumps in the road that must be planned for.”
Here are her top five suggestions for overall wellness and peace of mind while you age:
1. Maintain an active life style, exercise, socialize and learn. Take time to visit with friends and loved ones. Join a gym or go walking with friends. Take time to learn something new. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (Olli) at UNL and Southeast Community College have amazing opportunities to learn and grow. Senior centers and many of the retirement communities offer great complimentary classes as well.
2. Find the right place to live as you age. We must ask ourselves if our current home is going to suit us best as our physical abilities change. Is there modifications that can be made? For example, can you move your laundry to the first floor or can you modify your shower to be a walk in rather than a tub. If your home is not the right place for you to live as you age, where will you live?
3. Take control of your health; find a primary care physician that you trust to care for you as you age.
4. Make your wishes known. Take time to sit down with your loved ones and talk about things that may be uncomfortable to discuss such as finances, retirement living and long term care, Code Status as well as end of life and funeral arrangements.
5. Appoint a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for your health and financial needs. Take time to visit with your loved ones to determine which family member or friend would be best suited to make your decisions and follow your wishes, if you are unable to make your own decisions.
Additionally, Jennifer Gibbons, Director of Nursing and Owner of Elite Professionals Home Care Company, encourages senior clients to take measures that decrease health risks and motivate them in living healthy. She says, “Simple activities that seniors can do at home to continue strengthening their mind include: puzzles, card games, listening to music, reading, arts and crafts and spending time with grandchildren. Seniors should try and get regular physical activity daily with a mixture of aerobic and strengthening exercises including: yoga, walking, gardening, dancing, biking etc. Many local gyms now offer specific senior activities to include aerobics and swimming. This is a fun way to meet people, socialize with others, and stay healthy at the same time! Seniors should do activities that are right for them and always check with their physician before starting a new exercise plan.”
Gibbons also explains, “Home healthcare has become the healthcare choice for many persons for their futures. Many people are choosing to remain in their home when they can no longer care for themselves versus institutionalized living. Elite Professionals Home Care Company offers anything from one hour personal care or companion visits per day, up to 24 hours per day. These visits may consist of a homemaker for companionship, errands, cleaning; a certified nursing assistant for assistance with bathing, dressing, medications, personal care; a skilled nurse visit to include medication planner fills and medication education, and physical, occupational; or speech therapy visits. When a senior has been hospitalized, Elite Professionals can setup post hospitalization care for seniors in their home to provide cares needed for a speedy recovery.
We also offer a special 24-hour caregiver program, with around-the-clock assistance. The patient gets to know only 3 to 4 caregivers total, thus the client sees only 3-4 caregivers each week rather than the typical 3-4 caregivers per day. The care is tailored to the patient so that the patient is able to continue to do the things they love; such as: going to church, participating in craft groups, attending exercise programs, visiting with neighbors and going shopping.”
Other Lincoln area resources seniors can take advantage of are Hy-Vee and other grocery stores offer various cooking classes to include healthy living options and ideas. And, many local charities (MS Foundation, ALS Foundation, Alzheimer’s Foundation, Lincoln Area Office on Aging, etc.) organize various walks, which raise money for a great cause and are a great way to stay active as well.
Elders, like all people, sometimes just live in the day to day routine and do not plan for the future. But as Christy Sueverkruepp, Business Manager at Guardian Angels Homecare, reminds us, “As Winston Churchill told us ‘He who fails to plan is planning to fail.’ There are some common issues that limit an elder’s ability to stay independent with a high quality of life. These include preventing falls, maintaining good nutrition and hydration, maintaining chronic health issues and following medication and treatment plans. Focus on prevention steps instead of resolving problems. Equip yourself with a support system of friends and family to help you achieve your goals. The same things that keep everyone healthy keep elders healthy. The caveat to this is that a 20 year old can withstand the rigors of consuming junk food, poor sleep habits and missing medications better than an 80 year old. The margin for error declines as your age increase.” Sueverkruepp provides a few tips:
• To prevent falls: wear proper footwear, remove trip hazards, utilize grab bars, use a walker or a cane and address conditions such as dizziness or weakness.
• To maintain good nutrition: use fresh or frozen foods to increase nutrients, limit the amount of salt and sugar in your diet and use local resources such as senior center meals to supplement your diet.
• To maintain chronic health issues such as diabetes and blood pressure problems: visit your doctor as needed to discuss your medications and treatment plan, follow this plan and report back to your doctor, and have prescription meds set up in easy-to-use dose packs to avoid errors.
Sueverkruepp says, “Each individual’s health quality rests on a 3 legged stool with one leg being access to care, another being quality and another being cost. Damage to one of these factors can tip the balance. Guardian Angels Homecare has been able to fill a niche for many elders. We deliver care to their door at a lower cost than the medical model can provide and with a focus on providing the best quality of life for each individual. A review of pharmacology research by PhRMA included a study that found: 33 to 69 percent of medicine-related hospital admissions are caused by poor adherence, with a resulting estimated cost as high as $100 billion a year. Improved compliance with medications is just one of the many ways we can improve an elder’s life.”
One of the things in particular that we face as we age is hearing loss, which can affect the overall health of seniors in several ways. It takes approximately 5 years for someone to admit they have a hearing loss. During that time, it’s very likely that person has slowly withdrawn from social activities, “because it is easier to stay home than to deal with distorted conversations,” says Leslie Frank MS, CCC-A; owner and Audiologist at Nebraska Hearing Center. “Social opportunities are really important. People with hearing loss slowly begin to isolate themselves and may not even realize they are doing it; or that it’s due to a hearing loss.” Hearing loss is a gradual process, and there are many different ways that people adapt to these changes that may not be apparent to their loved ones.
Recent studies from John Hopkins show that hearing loss may play a role in dementia or Alzheimer’s. Certain areas of the brain are used to process sound and speech. According to the study, when those areas of the brain are not being used, it may lead to dementia.
Technology, however, is really changing the world of hearing. Nebraska Hearing Center offers wireless technology combined with a small remote. It is designed to improve hearing when using cell phones, or when watching TV, or listening to music. The technology really improves the clarity when in meetings, noisy places, or while at church. “Our clients who have recently purchased these new aids, really love them,” says Frank. Nebraska Hearing Center also has a new tinnitus device. “Clients who have had ringing in their ears for years, tell us they no longer hear it.”
Nebraska Hearing Center believes in monitoring your hearing, and offers free hearing evaluations. “It is important to treat your hearing like any other annual exam,” states Frank. “Since the evaluation is free, it only makes sense.”
Common signs of hearing loss to watch for are:
• Can hear loud enough, but can’t understand conversations.
• Overuse of the word “what.”
• The TV is too loud for others.
• Trouble understanding a conversation in a noisy environment, such as a restaurant.
• Ringing in the ears.
In addition to hearing loss, memory loss is very common as we age. High Plains Alzheimer’s Care provides useful tips regarding visiting your elderly loved ones in a Memory Care Facility:
“For many years after the onset of dementia, long-held memories remain intact. Often it is helpful to stick with the same routines your family member has been accustomed to over the years. Symbols such as the Bible are reassuring and comforting. If your loved one doesn’t remember names or recognize rapidly changing grandchildren, remember: ‘Don’t correct; only connect.’ For example, don’t say, ‘Don’t you remember? This is your first grandchild Peter.’ Instead say, ‘Grandma, your grandson Peter is here and wants to give you a hug.’ Or if you visit grandma in her memory care living community and she says, ‘I want to go home.’ Don’t say, ‘This is your home now.’ Logic is unlikely to improve this type of situation. Instead say, ‘Mom, remember that house we had in Brainard when I was in grade school? You made it such a wonderful home. And your room here with all the familiar furniture reminds me of it. You always make your home so cozy.’ Honor her thoughts of home and gently change the subject. If grandma laments long-lost items, find similar ones. She may not remember giving away that beloved red teddy-bear but you can find one like it. If grandpa gets upset because his sweater is missing, get another one. Find tasks that are meaningful and achievable, such as baking or decorating cookies. Go through old family albums and bring up good memories. Don’t treat a demented elder in a patronizing or demeaning way–it’s sometimes remarkable what a person with dementia can still do. Experts suggest that ‘Hush; don’t rush’ is a good policy. Keep things simple and relaxed. It takes enormous patience but is often rewarded with meaningful and loving time spent together. Enjoy your visit, making meaningful moments and know that our team at High Plains Alzheimer’s Special Care Center is here to support you.” For a free tour or just for resource questions call (402) 483-0250.
Carla Abendroth, Marketing Director at Clark Jeary Retirement Community adds, “Clark Jeary Autumn View Memory Care was designed to create an environment that provides freedom and security. We recognize that engaging, meaningful activities and events are a key component of effective memory care. Our exercise programs and beautiful enclosed courtyard provides ample opportunity to enhance each individual’s health and wellness. A stroll in the enclosed courtyard provides not only exercise, but also sensory stimulation from the beautiful trees, flowers, birds and even visits from rabbits! We understand that social interaction is an important part of maintaining and strengthening friendships and family bonds. As such, we structure our recreational and social activities to support this belief. Residents can enjoy exercise programs, games, music, crafts, and social programs designed to meet residents’ physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being. We strive to celebrate the spirit of each resident and support the capabilities of each resident through individualized activities that encourage creativity and self-expression.”
In addition, there are preventative steps we can take to have the proper tools we need in place for when seniors need assistance. RJ Lipert, owner at AlarmLink USA, explains, “The medical alert system allows mature adults and family members a piece of mind and comfort that if a situation arises, help is on the way. The Medical Alert System can be designed to meet the client’s needs. A basic Medical Alert System is set up with a waterproof fob to be worn as a necklace, or on the wrist. If the button is pushed, family members & possibly 911 are alerted of a situation. The situation could be a person needed help up, medical emergency, fire or a break in occurring. The cost for this system is around a dollar a day and helps keep a family member in the home or retirement community.
We also assist clients with fire/smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that can be tied into a medical alert system. Additionally, we provide home fire extinguishers that are designed for the types of fires that occur in home. We offer the Dry Chemical BC and Cleanguard fire extinguishers from General Fire & Safety Equipment Company located here in Lincoln. We are a local company with local technicians, and we make sure the experience is positive. We’re here for our clients.”
Similarly, Todd Jones, of ReBath Nebraska explains we can take steps in our homes—specifically in our bathrooms—to live happier, fulfilling lives. He says, “By making the entry and exit to the bathtub or shower as safe as possible, seniors are able to enter and exit the bath area safely. If someone falls and gets hurt, it impacts what they’re able to do physically in life. One of the easiest things we can add is a simple safety bar. Today these are made to look very modern and not ‘hospital looking.’ I’m excited about these new products, as you wouldn’t think they’re a safety bar. These allow seniors to have a hand hold that’s strong enough to support their weight and they look fantastic! At ReBath, we offer a range of things to help make the bath area safer. This includes higher toilets, safety bars, tub to shower conversions, and walk-in tubs. And, because we focus on good customer service, we offer a free consultation and come to people’s homes and to provide advice on what should be done to create safe bathrooms and homes.”
From eating right, to staying active and social, to taking the appropriate preventative steps, there are many things to consider and prepare for as we age. As it’s been said, the greatest wealth is health, and we are fortunate to be in a community with an abundance of resources and programs to help us maintain good health throughout all of life’s years, so that we can all live longer, happier, and more fulfilling lives!