Senior Living in Lincoln – 2017
This month we’ve still got a little left of summer yet to enjoy before transitioning into fall. Then, in what seems like a blur, it will already be time to carve pumpkins, turkeys, and hams – and all of the other good stuff that happens throughout the remainder of the year. Everything inevitably happens so quickly. That being the case, especially for seniors and their loved ones, now is the time to start thinking about the things that are needed to get through another winter happy and healthy, and to fully enjoy the upcoming holiday season. Although it might seem a little early, rest assured you’ll be in a much better position if you have a plan in place and have made arrangements well ahead of time, rather than putting things off and being forced to make decisions on very short notice or in crisis.
As such, we decided to consult with the professionals a little earlier than usual this year about winter and holiday preparations just for good measure. But not to worry, we’ve also thrown in some great ideas for getting out and enjoying the beautiful fall weather while it lasts, and a lot of other important things to consider with respect to planning for the future!
It comes as no surprise to us Nebraskans that the weather can easily be cause for concern, particularly at times of the year when it’s more likely we’ll experience the extremes. Although by nature it’s unpredictable, to an extent we can anticipate how it will affect us going about our lives. We generally plan according to what the conditions are likely to be at certain times as a force of habit, and that’s not a bad thing–better safe than sorry. For seniors, winter, in particular, presents its fair share of challenges and concerns.
“Winter is only a few months away and it’s important to consider having our loved ones in a safe environment,” says Mary Ann Stallings with Bridge to Better Living. “In senior living communities, residents are able to be warm, have medical needs met, attend indoor social activities and enjoy hot, nutritious meals. Snow and ice removal on pathways decrease the chance of falls. If families are proactive now a Senior could be moved to a community before winter or increase the chances for a specific apartment they would prefer by being on a waiting list. Good health and company are both important when it comes to maintaining quality of life.
The holidays tend to be an emotional time for most, with both happiness and sadness conveyed. The word presents takes on a new meaning during the holiday season. Instead, it presents many situations and circumstances difficult for all family members.
Prior to the season discuss family traditions, meal preparation, shopping for gifts and planned activities. What traditions will continue? With the busy lives of family members how much time will be devoted to the holidays and sharing the memories of yesteryear?
Family members often spend less time with their senior loved ones during the holiday season due to their own hectic schedules. Skyping and social media are wonderful ways to stay connected. In senior communities, the staff is available to assist residents with technology. In addition, families are welcome to reserve private areas for their own celebrations. Living in a senior community offers many possibilities to enjoy new and old traditions. The goal is to have seniors live a quality life with a spirit of purpose.
Managing the expectations and activities of intergenerational family members may be difficult and each member needs to be sensitive to the desires of others. Take the time to sit down, discuss the holidays and think of ways to help avoid the all-consuming loneliness many people have during these special, enjoyable times. Give the present of memories, traditions, and love.”
In agreement, Amy Fish of Lancaster Rehabilitation Center adds, “Memories made during the holiday season last forever, and are important for seniors to continue to experience. The holidays tend to be overbooked with parties and activities, so it’s important to plan in advance to make that special time happen. When planning family gatherings, keep in mind the location, and if it is handicap accessible. Try to avoid gatherings in locations with stairs or narrow bathroom facilities. If the plan includes an overnight stay, ensure medications are organized and available to take when scheduled.
From now until the holidays, there’s another meaningful set of events that’s important to take into consideration. When the calendar turns to fall in Nebraska that means it’s football season. For those elder family members unable to attend the game, consider hosting a watch party to cheer on the Huskers together.
Also, while there’s still an opportunity to enjoy the nice fall weather, farmer’s markets are a fun and relaxing way to get out and about. You might also consider a short day trip to one of the state parks to enjoy the beautiful fall colors.
Once winter arrives, getting out and about can be treacherous for anyone, let alone for those who have physical limitations or safety concerns. Therefore, before deciding to make that trip to the store or medical appointment, seniors need to be sure the route will be free of obstacles like snow banks or icy sidewalks. Volunteering to clean the drive or sidewalk for a senior is a kind gesture and may allow them to make even simple trips to the mailbox worry free. Another kind gesture would be offering to assist them with their travel needs, or just stopping by to pass the time. The cold and dangers of winter can isolate seniors, making simple tasks more difficult. It is important to lean on the many resources our community offers to seniors every day, including things like meals on wheels and home health care services. At Lancaster Rehabilitation we also offer short-term respite stays, where seniors can take up temporary residence until spring arrives. That way, they get all the comforts of home, including delicious home-cooked meals, and can stay engaged with others by taking part in our activity program.”
Expanding upon that last item addressed, as others have mentioned, seniors are particularly susceptible to becoming isolated and having less social contact.
“One of the biggest concerns we see for seniors who live alone, especially during the winter months, is isolation,” says Jennifer Knecht with Immanuel. “As we get older, social structures change, family dynamics change. And for seniors who are retired and living alone, social experiences—something that’s so important for emotional wellbeing—require extra effort. From social gatherings to volunteer opportunities and community events, the fall and winter months are filled with lifestyle activities and ways to get involved. Wellness classes and lifelong learning opportunities are also ways to expand social structures while focusing on health.
At Immanuel Communities, this social aspect is so ingrained in resident life. Activities are available for all interests and lifestyles, including health and fitness. We realize that when seniors are involved socially, there’s much less risk for isolation and depression.
Also, winter is often a time where seniors start considering the upkeep of their home and whether the maintenance required to get through the winter is still feasible. Whether it’s time to make a move to a maintenance-free senior living community or that decision is down the road, the holidays can be a good time to start the conversation with family, get a pulse on how much home maintenance is feasible during the winter, and start researching living options. At Immanuel, our senior living consultants provide answers to options for every lifestyle. They’re a good place to start when getting the feel of what’s out there and what services are available. Exploring senior living can be daunting, and assistance in navigating them can be helpful.”
Knecht also offers advice as we approach the holidays that’s focused on the importance of self-care and support. “The holidays can be joyous times celebrating with family and friends. But for some seniors, the dangers of flu season and icy roads or the memories of friends and loved ones who may have recently passed can be difficult.
It’s important for seniors to go into the holidays prepared with wellness of mind and body as the first concern. Encourage your loved ones to get plenty of exercise, eat healthy foods, and stay socially active going into flu season. Fall can be a great time to get up-to-date on vaccinations and meet with doctors about any existing health concerns. For seniors who live alone, isolation can only increase during the winter months. Social activities can help prevent the loneliness and in many cases, depression that can arise from isolation.
Facing the holidays without loved ones who have passed can be difficult. Again, recognizing the need for support is important. Reach out to aging loved ones and talk to them, especially if they’ve lost a loved one in the last year. Planning a special activity of a remembered tradition can help honor the late loved one. Depression during the holidays is felt at any age, but for seniors, reaching out can be difficult. Talking through the grief during the holidays or reaching out for medical help is just as important to wellness as exercise and a healthy diet.”
Moving to a 55+ community or assisted living facility has its benefits, particularly since the needs of this population have been identified and everything has been thoughtfully designed around them.
“Seniors tend to have the idea that ‘assisted living’ is still going to be like the ‘nursing home’ that their mother lived in, but boy have things changed!” says Beth Friesen with Oasis Senior Advisors. “In assisted living, our seniors are encouraged to be as independent as possible. They all have their own apartment, food choices abound, and there is a constant source of activities to participate in if the senior wants to do so. The senior remains in charge of their care as long as they are able and their wishes are respected.
She also joins our other professionals in offering a few ideas for the upcoming months. “As far as spending time together with your senior loved ones this fall, orchards and pumpkin patches are always a huge hit. I remember taking my mother with Alzheimer’s to the pumpkin patch. We enjoyed some time walking around the various sizes of pumpkins, looking at the holiday decor and drinking apple cider together.
With the holidays on the horizon, I would encourage families to plan ahead. Not knowing what the definite plans are can cause a lot of unnecessary stress for the senior. Putting things into place and getting them ‘on the calendar’ brings a sense of calmness that is comforting and reduces anxiety. On the other hand, it’s also helpful to prepare any family members who may not have seen the senior for an extended time for what they should expect in terms of any changes in condition.
Consider taking advantage of the holidays to have some ‘family meetings’ in order to make sure that the senior’s affairs are in order. Make sure that estate planning, wills and power of attorney documents are up to date and that family members know how to access them. If a move may be needed in the next year, take the time over the holidays to discuss the possibilities and contact a senior living advisor to begin the discussion and investigation.
My more immediate recommendations aside from planning for holiday events well in advance are mostly safety-related. Make sure that the furnace is inspected and in good working order before it is actually needed. Put contingency plans in place for getting to appointments and doctor’s visits when the weather turns for the worse. Have discussions about their driving skills and make sure they are safe to drive in the dark and on less than optimal road ways, and if not, make arrangements otherwise.”
Going back to moving, for some it is a more immediate and pressing need, while for others, it’s being considered as a suitable option but there’s no big rush. For those who find themselves in the latter category, Jocelyn Fitzgerald with Legacy Retirement Communities provides the following suggestions:
“If a decision is already made to move, it may bring a sense of closure to make arrangements so that you can enjoy one final holiday season in your home. Embrace family traditions and make it a positive experience by taking photos throughout the day to create a scrapbook or keepsakes for later. Help your loved one make the favorite family meal in their home. This is a great way to bond over wonderful memories and look forward to making new traditions.
Over the winter months, take a room each week to see how you can downsize it or organize it. Challenge yourself to think about the value of the ‘stuff.’ You’ll come across items that you’ve had for as long as you can remember, but ask yourself, ‘Is this something that I am using quite often or has it been packed away in a box or tub for years?’ Take time to reflect on yourself as well. Ask yourself or your loved one questions like ‘What are some of the challenges you may be facing in your current situation? Is there a way to make things better or safer? If not, what does that change look like for you? How do the winter months affect your social life? Are you still able to get out and do the things you love?’ The answers to these questions might help you sort out any ambivalence you may be having towards retirement living options.
As for family members and friends, you’re the people who can offer a helpful outside opinion. During the holidays, spend time with your senior loved one in their day-to-day routine and keep an eye out for safety hazards. Discuss this with your loved one and try to find a solution within the home. This may also be an opportune time to open up the discussion about retirement living options.
It’s also advised for seniors and their loved ones to get out and tour the different senior living communities together or to attend events they’re hosting to see and experience them for yourself. The Legacy Terrace will be having their Terrace Town Carnival Sunday, September 10th from 1-4 p.m. at 57th and Fremont St. There will be carnival favorites such as corn dogs, cotton candy, balloon animals and more! This is a perfect opportunity to informally visit Legacy Terrace and to get a feel for the lifestyle. Please take advantage of our shuttle service for the event! The shuttle will be located at Cross the Line Church (previously The Falls reception hall), 5925 Adams St. and will run from 12:45 – 4:30 p.m.”
Kyle Johnson with Care Consultants for the Aging highlights even more things to think about this time of year. “For those who are able to take a little day trip, the AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City is a fantastic event that’s fun for all ages. Just getting out and enjoying your surroundings can positively influence your health and state of mind. Or, in closer proximity, there are great pumpkin patches in the area, but I’d advise avoiding the weekends if at all possible. Being around kids can be a mood booster for seniors, particularly if they’ve raised kids of their own or enjoy them. Sometimes family members aren’t available to accompany their senior loved ones, but that need not prevent involvement as there are plenty of other options to consider. Getting connected with a local senior center will afford you many opportunities to take advantage of activities and social outings. Those in senior living communities also have the option of attending regularly scheduled events, and generally transportation is provided, which is nice. Or there are professionals who provide one-on-one in-home services that can be scheduled for as little as a few hours for an outing together or transportation to one.
Once the temperature starts to drop, it’s easy to become homebound. As far as safety is concerned, for seniors who are able to remain living at home, and especially for those who are living alone, at the very least having a life alert or call pendant to connect you with emergency response is a good idea.
Especially for seniors who retired, staying involved socially is important, so it’s a good idea to have some things lined up ahead of time. Especially during the winter months, there are far too many seniors that sit at home alone all day, for days on end. When seniors have lost that interaction with others and the world outside the confines of their homes, they tend to dwell on the negatives. Just watching the news, very little of which is positive these days, can cause stress and depression that’s exacerbated by continued isolation. Our mood affects everything from appetite to hygiene to energy level and the motivation to be active and social.
Even something as simple as caregiver services – having someone to come over and provide companionship, monitor health and living conditions, help with tasks around the house, or take a senior out to run errands or attend an event – can be tremendously beneficial. There’s a vast amount of resources available to seniors, but in my line of work, we often find that many are apprehensive of taking advantage for a variety of reasons. Most notably, it’s a common misconception that it sounds expensive so therefore it must be, which causes people to dismiss perfectly viable options altogether. Struggling with the loss of independence is another worry for seniors; as we age, we find that we need more help, but it can be hard to ask for it because we don’t want to be a burden. But far too often I talk with people who wish they would’ve just asked sooner. Don’t wait too long and pass up opportunities, then find yourself in a bad situation. There’s no harm in reaching out for recommendations, asking plenty of questions, and seeking out help from others in your community who are here for you.”
Respite services are indeed something to consider as they benefit both seniors and their loved ones who are also acting as caregivers in addition to their many other roles in life.
During the hectic holiday season and with winter chill, Elders naturally become more homebound. If getting out becomes an issue, let Tabitha deliver a daily hot, nutritious meal and check-in through Tabitha’s Meals on Wheels program. Just $6.25 a day gives Elders the independence to stay in their homes and their families the peace of mind to know that someone will be checking in on them daily.
Moreover, Tabitha The Club – Adult Day Services provides a safe and cozy atmosphere for Elders to socialize and just get out of the house.
It is equally important for caregivers to take care of themselves. The Club provides much-needed respite for those caring for Elders who do not feel comfortable leaving them at home alone. You can have peace of mind knowing your family member is in a safe place while you get holiday errands accomplished or simply just take a break.
“The Club is an economical way for caregivers to get the compassionate daytime support they need and a way for them to remain independent longer,” said Kristine Dykeman Schoening with Tabitha, Continuum. “It also allows both the caregiver and the Elder to maintain an active lifestyle. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Oftentimes, during the holidays is when families notice a big change in an Elderly loved one, especially for an out-of-town son or daughter visiting. It is important to address the situation and understand the resources available to help a loved one live at home longer. Tabitha’s Continuum Navigators are experts in all things Elder care and can help point you in the right direction.
“EngAGE by Tabitha™ can serve as a lifeline and proactively determine the best approach and plan for the aging journey,” said Dykeman-Schoening. “The expert EngAGE team helps navigate through the complex and ever-changing health care system to ensure your loved one is getting the right level of care where and when they need it. It also helps avoid a crisis situation and hasty, uninformed choices that may not serve the family properly in terms of both care and cost. At Tabitha, we value Elder-driven care, and EngAGE is a great way to stay ahead of life changes.”
Dykeman-Schoening also details more of the different ways that Tabitha can be of assistance to the Elder community here in Lincoln and surrounding areas:
“Those 65 and older are retiring at a staggering rate of 10,000 per day. To ensure you have the quality of life you desire as you grow older, it is important to plan now for how you envision your aging journey. Tabitha’s strong Continuum of Elder Care can walk alongside you and assist you each step of the way.
Tabitha can seamlessly assist with care from tailored rehabilitation, unique Elder focus, convenient home health care, innovative living communities and compassionate hospice care.
Seven out of 10 Elders plan to age at home with no assistance. In reality though, 70 percent of seniors will require some type of Elder Care support through their final years, but the majority brush the idea aside and are not well-versed in the many available options. The milder fall weather provides an opportunity for Elders to take control of their aging journey and explore the services and living communities in the surrounding area.
There is a great opportunity to learn more about residential-style care, as Tabitha will debut the latest Tabitha Residence, Harbor House, on Wednesday, October 11 at 10 a.m. Stop by for a tour and to learn more about this innovative lifestyle—the future of skilled nursing and long-term care—and the benefits of living in this elder-centered community. Harbor House is located at 6100 S. 34th St., in south Lincoln’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Suites can be reserved now and you can also call (402) 486-8520 for more information.
All Tabitha Residences are intimate, home-like settings for skilled nursing and long-term care, where Elders direct their care and staff and residents are like family. Tabitha Residences have been tied to better clinical outcomes and a 5-Star overall rating from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Tabitha also offers renowned short-term rehabilitation through the Tabitha Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to help seniors get back on their feet after a surgery or hospital stay. Private suites are just steps away from the latest in therapy services—aquatic, physical, speech and occupational—coupled with Tabitha’s strong legacy of delivering compassionate care makes it the answer for Elder rehabilitation. Plus, Tabitha’s Continuum supports families through all stages of the aging journey even after they return home.”
Also regarding making these types of decisions, Trish Jarnagin with The Woodlands at Hillcrest further advises, “For seniors, the most common question is ‘How do I choose the retirement community that is right for me?’ Having worked in the field for 25 years I can honestly say, choose the community that makes you ‘feel good’ during and after your visit. Don’t be so concerned about location and all the bells and whistles, but focus on how the employees treat you and others. Do they really ‘care’ about you or are they just trying to rent an apartment? Do they take time with you or rush you through the tour? Is the atmosphere happy and friendly? Are their activities going on and is there space to hold activities? Are residents engaged in the activities? Be sure to visit at least three communities so that you can get a good idea of what each community has to offer. It is also important to start planning your move 4 to 6 months ahead of time if possible. This will allow you time to really digest the information and feelings you get from the different communities.
In preparation for relocating, when families begin to make plans for the holidays, one thing that they can start thinking about is downsizing. In my experience, the families that downsize prior to making a decision to move are much further ahead when discussions about moving into a community begin. The Woodlands at Hillcrest will offer services through local companies to help folks with downsizing, organizing thus making the process much easier.
With the winter months just around the corner, as others have mentioned, families would also be wise to start planning for such things as socialization events to prevent isolation. Snow removal and transportation are two other issues that arise over the winter. Oftentimes snow removal companies get booked up so it is wise to get a company hired prior to the first snow. Making arrangements for who will transport the senior to appointments, shopping, and other events are also things that are best planned ahead. Try and arrange the recommended 6-month physician appointments for a check-up before and after winter. Stock up on non-perishable food items so that shopping trips are quick and can be done easily. Finally, plan events based on the senior’s needs, have as many events at their home or community versus going out in the winter months.”
As you can see from the wealth of feedback from our local professionals thus far, there are a lot of things one can do to positively impact the lives of senior loved ones, but especially during winter months and the holidays. By paying close attention and staying involved, you can also identify potential issues so that they can be addressed proactively.
Leslie Frank with Nebraska Hearing Center offers yet another example related to her area of expertise. “Seniors with undiagnosed or untreated hearing problems may avoid social situations because of difficulty communicating or embarrassment. Particularly during the holidays, seniors look forward to family gatherings and community festivities. If you see your loved one pass up an opportunity and it’s out of their character, or become increasingly withdrawn, there are other signs to look for that may point to hearing loss. Some of the more common ones include repeatedly asking “What?”, having the TV up too loud, and trouble understanding conversation in a noisy environment. Seniors often have trouble hearing higher-pitched voices such as grandchildren or women too. If you notice any of these signs bring the senior in to Nebraska Hearing Center for a complimentary hearing evaluation. A hearing aid may be the only barrier between that person and better health.
If upon evaluation it’s determined that a hearing aid is needed, choosing the right one for that individual’s needs is very important. At Nebraska Hearing Center there are many things we take into consideration when helping choose the best hearing aids for our clients. These days there are so many different options out there, and there are always new ones being advertised. All hearing aids aren’t created equal and neither are all patients. That is why it is so important to come in and sit down with one of our audiologists to discuss all of the options available and the differences between them.
As winter and the holidays approach, encourage seniors to continue to get out of the house. It is important to stay engaged in the community and with friends and family. Those with a hearing loss sometimes don’t even realize it. They tend to slowly withdraw from social activities. Make sure to offer them transportation and help them schedule outings, and at family events, give them a task or purpose and make sure to include them in activities. Set a time to come over and help them clean up their yards, put up holiday decorations, or take them to a movie or out to lunch. And encourage them to have their hearing checked and hearing problems treated!
There is no better time than before all the family gatherings around the holidays to come get your hearing checked. Call us to set up your complimentary evaluation at (402) 486-3737, and come visit us at our new location, 333 S. 70th Street, Suite 101.”
Also healthcare-related, Kasey Malm with Old Cheney Rehabilitation further advises, “Understand your insurance benefits. Your insurance plan should match your needs. Too many times we see people that need our types of services and the different insurance plans, including Medicare replacement plans, can increase your costs of care. There are times that insurance coverage does not cover the entire length of stay needed. Many are surprised to discover the difference between Medicare A coverage and private insurance plans. We’re more than happy to discuss your insurance plan and coverage, over the phone or in person.”
She also cautions, “Be prepared in the winter months. It is a great idea to hire a snow and ice removal service. Many people think they won’t fall and that is exactly when it happens. You can fall and injure yourself at any age. At the very least, wear practical shoes. It is also a good idea to wash your hands often and get your flu shot and any other recommended vaccinations. Prevention is the key. Or don’t and then you’ll run the risk (or have the good fortune) of being my patient at Old Cheney Rehabilitation.
As a physical therapist with specific expertise in geriatrics, I focus on fall prevention and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. Currently, there’s a need of post-acute care in a non-nursing home environment among the senior population. This environment creates hope and optimism that is a joy to work in. When people come through our doors we immediately start planning the recovery process. You will leave Old Cheney Rehabilitation with a better understanding of your health and how to live successfully in your home. Our success is your success. We are having an Open House on September 21 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. I’d love to show you our state-of-the-art gym. If you aren’t able to attend the open house, call us for a tour.”
Jodi Freeman of Roper & Sons brings up a couple other timely issues that could easily be overlooked but are important to keep in mind in the coming months.
“Many people travel to a destination with a warmer climate in the winter, especially seniors who are retired and families using holiday break to take a fun trip together. Something to consider when preparing to travel is how your affairs would be handled in the event of your death out of state. Having a funeral home chosen, along with having your funeral arrangements made and paid in full or a payment arrangement in place is very important, particularly for those who spend part of the year out of state. It is also essential to keep in mind that transporting your body from one state to another can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. At Roper & Sons, we offer an ‘out of area protection plan’ that covers those expenses. If you travel regularly, be sure to ask about out of state coverage when you are preplanning funeral arrangements.
Switching gears, one of the biggest stressors during the holiday season is gift giving, especially for seniors who might be on a restricted income. The holidays are a great time to start thinking about, and planning for distributing those ‘sentimental assets’ we all collect – the ‘yellow pie plates’ so to speak.
As a society, and especially younger generations, we are becoming more mobile and more minimalist. Deciding what to do with our treasured possessions can become a source of stress. The approaching holiday season is the perfect time for seniors to talk with their children and grandchildren about what things are important to each of them, and why, and then to determine who – if anyone – wants those possessions. Then, instead of struggling to buy more ‘stuff,’ use the holidays as a time to gift those sentimental items to family members and dear friends. A gift with meaning and history is often so much more thoughtful and meaningful than some trivial item.”
Many of us don’t really want to think about winter weather that will be here in just a few short months or all of the holiday madness quite yet (although of course there are those who wait with bated breath, we all know at least one). Yet, as you can see, there are some practical reasons and compelling arguments for making certain arrangements well in advance, particularly for seniors and their loved ones. If there’s one takeaway, it’s that no matter what you need, just ask, because there are a wide range of resources here in our community for the diverse population of seniors who call Lincoln home.