Senior Living Through the Holidays in Lincoln 2020

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When most people think about the holidays, they envision twinkling lights, family time, laughter, funny sweaters, decorating, glistening snow, Christmas carols, Santa Claus, parties, hot chocolate, family movies, and general holiday cheer. People are actually under pressure to enjoy themselves during the holidays. It’s not a reality for everyone, though, especially in this crazy year of isolation. Many elderly residents in Lincoln will spend their 2020 Christmas holiday in assisted living, rehabilitation, memory-care, or independent living, while others will stay home, often alone, because they don’t have family nearby or are dedicated to practicing social distancing throughout COVID.

While anxiety, depression, and isolation are more common among the elderly than we’d like to believe, research has shown that the holiday season often makes these feelings more severe. People need social interaction, and memories of the holidays of yore, missing family and friends, and the extreme lack of social interaction they’ve experience this year can make seniors feel lonelier than ever. The loss of traditions and acceptance that their life is not like it was in the past can be especially painful during the holidays. Going out of your way to make special connections with your elderly loved ones during this season isn’t as difficult as you might think—even when you can’t visit them in person.

We talked to senior-care experts in the Lincoln community to find out how they help spread the joyful holiday spirit among the seniors in their care—and how their families can help keep their moods boosted. There are some fantastic caregivers in Lincoln that are taking tremendous care of your loved ones in senior living or through home-care services, but the fact is, they aren’t YOU, and the seniors in your life need to connect with family more than ever during this holiday season. We even asked the experts to share some fitting gift ideas for isolated seniors in 2020, and we got some fantastic input that can help you wrap up your holiday shopping for your favorite seniors—or for someone without family—and know that your gestures will be on-target for their needs and these crazy times. Be sure to read to the end to get those ideas and finish up your Christmas list!

It’s All About Connections

The holidays are often an emotional time for many, even in a normal year. In 2020, though, the pandemic has created a completely new set of challenges for seniors and their families, as it relates to spending time together. COVID-19 has caused senior-living communities nationwide to be on guard 24/7, limiting resident visits altogether in most cases. Although the precautions to fight against the virus are vital, Tabitha (www.tabitha.org) understands that it is equally important to ensure that seniors remain engaged and well-connected with friends and family.

Ruthi Thompson
Tabitha

“Isolation, loneliness, and depression do not just impact seniors but individuals of all ages,” said Tabitha Director of Life Enrichment and Volunteers Ruthi Thompson. “These mental-health concerns have been an epidemic long before COVID-19 arrived. The virus has just magnified these issues. We have discovered that, often, a Tabitha resident’s spouse, who still lives at home alone, is even more impacted. Tabitha has gotten creative to combat this by implementing a robust Connector Program to facilitate communication between each resident and their family and friends. The holidays are also a time we tend to think about loved ones who have passed away. This is especially relevant to seniors who have lost a spouse and are feeling their absence as they reflect on holiday memories.”

Tabitha’s Life Enrichment teams go into overdrive during the holiday season. This year, they are putting a spin on traditional events to make sure seniors safely enjoy the traditions. Festivities will include joyful decorations, door-to-door and doorway activities and special, individualized Christmas gifts for each resident. They are also using the power of technology to connect residents with loved ones via tablets, smartphones, laptops, and Facebook Portals. It looks different this year, but the staff is doing everything they can to ensure that Tabitha residents have a safe yet joyous holiday season. Families of loved ones in senior living are doing the same.

“One of the best things families can do—especially with the ongoing pandemic—is to stay connected, whether that be through traditional means like phone calls and letters or more modern communication techniques, like video chats,” Ruthi said. “Sending Christmas cards, flowers, or a Poinsettia are other great ways to boost holiday cheer and will be important now more than ever to help lift residents’ spirits. The best gift of all is for families to give the gift of time—committing to connecting with seniors on a regular basis, especially with the use of technology, so residents can see their faces!”

COVID Fatigue

Marcia Houchin
CountryHouse Residences for Memory Care

CountryHouse Residences for Memory Care (www.countryhouse.net) Life Enrichment Director Marcia Houchin said the repercussions of the coronavirus have many seniors and their families experiencing COVID fatigue, as it has become clear that fighting the pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. Even in normal times, the holidays are especially fraught with emotion by way of memories about past holidays, family traditions, extreme forms of skepticism, and (often unrealistic) expectations. With COVID in play, things are exponentially more difficult.

“People are just plain tired of restrictions and not seeing their loves ones for months on end,” Marcia said. “Signs of COVID fatigue include loss of interest, as well as anger and feelings of sadness or anxiety. Sadness can lead to depression, which, in turn, can take a deadly toll on both mental and physical health. Residents who were careful in the beginning may now adopt an ‘I don’t care anymore’ attitude and quit following precautions or give up on making healthy choices.”

The staff at CountryHouse has gotten creative to come up with new and better ways to engage seniors during this time. The staff is learning about each resident’s family traditions for the holidays and recreating them in activities including recipes, stories, music, meditation, and the like. Other activities include finding programs to help provide for people in need—like sending care packages to troops and making and sending cards to friends and family.

“These things are important,” Marcia said. “No matter what, we can all do something to be a positive force in the world.”


It’s also beneficial to engage seniors who are struggling with COVID fatigue during the holidays by surprising them with joyful experiences, like carolers singing from the parking lot, fun holiday activities and games, silly and spontaneous fun with staff and, in their assisted-living housing, helping and encouraging residents to decorate their apartments to get into the joyful spirit. Family members should do as much virtual visiting as possible with their loved ones in senior care, too.

“When you’re on Skype, Zoom, Facebook, etc. with your loved one, give your visits some creative twists, like gathering the family together in your home to cook a favorite recipe together—like grandma’s famous stuffing or cranberry-fluff salad,” Marcia said. “Or take turns sharing ‘my favorite Christmas’ memories or carry on a family tradition, like reading The Night Before Christmas or the nativity story from the Bible, singing Christmas carols, or opening a gift.”

Communication is Crucial

At The Windcrest on Van Dorn (www.capitalsenior.com/community/the-windcrest-on-van-dorn) senior living community, the loneliness that comes from not being able to see friends and family in person this year is even more pronounced during the holiday season, as is the inability for senior residents to participate in family traditions and worship services. With this in mind, regular communication with family will be particularly important this holiday season—both at the senior-living community and with outside family and friends.

Kylee Graham
The Windcrest at Van Dorn

“We are helping seniors with access to Facetime, Zoom, and other ways to communicate with their families,” said Windcrest Executive Director Kylee Graham. “We also get them access to livestream worship services to make them feel closer to what’s important to them this holiday season and throughout the pandemic. We started some different traditions as a community, increased holiday decorations and the residents’ participation in decorating, and do holiday crafts and activities in small groups.”

“We also have a community van we use to take residents on tours of the lights around town, and through our Ambassador Program, residents have a staff member that meets with them individually on a regular basis and visits or discusses any issues they may have,” Kylee continued. “It’s also important that we work to make sure that we encourage residents to stick with a routine, daily exercise, and hydration.”

Kylee encourages families with loved ones in senior living or otherwise isolated from visits with family and friends during the holidays to communicate often and engage their loved one in any way possible.

Encourage all of your family members to send photos, make phone calls, and include loved ones in family get-togethers on Facetime or Zoom. The team at Windcrest will assist residents in setting up, joining, and participating in them. If you’re in the area, drop off their favorite Christmas cookies or treats, and the staff will deliver them. Likewise, ask family and friends to send personal cards and letters. These are especially treasured items for seniors this year.

Be Creative!

Gayleen Bradley
Old Cheney Rehabilitation

Old Cheney Rehabilitation (www.oldcheneyrehab.com) Care Coordinator Gayleen Bradley said one of the keys to helping seniors know they aren’t alone is creativity. Throughout COVID, Old Cheney has been pulling out all the stops to make sure their residents’ minds and hearts are engaged so they don’t slide into loneliness or despair. That includes things like setting up lots of FaceTime calls so they can see their loved ones when they talk to them, engaging more senses and emotional cues that make meaningful connections. There are also lots of other ways that families can make the holidays memorable for their loved ones, even if they can’t celebrate in the same space.

“Everyone is lonely and sad being away from their families and friends,” Gayleen said. “Just seeing their loved ones is important, and FaceTime and Zoom are great ways to connect when you don’t have a lot of options, but we really work to get creative. We called up some daycare places and they brought the kids over to walk around outside wearing their Halloween costumes and waving through the windows to residents, then we passed out candy to the kids. It makes the residents feel like part of the celebration. We plan to get some people to come by and sing Christmas carols during the holidays, too.”

Old Cheney also placed paper pumpkins with residents’ room numbers written on them in their windows so that friends and family know where to go to see their loved ones from outside. Some family members also bring their pets to see their loved ones through the windows, and Old Cheney encourages that because it always brightens faces and creates smiles. If you’re looking for a way to cheer up a senior in your life—or even someone you don’t know—you can also send gifts to them, including flowers or foods, even hot foods, like their favorite pizza! Or you can just sit outside their window and talk to them on your cellphone.

“One daughter comes and sees her dad faithfully,” Gayleen said. “One day, it was pouring rain and she’s still sitting out there with her chair and umbrella outside his window talking with him. It’s so awesome for them both. While it might be inconvenient—even wet—these are families that really still need their families.”

As for holiday gift ideas, Gayleen suggested a few things: From the higher end, iPads or tablets they can use to play games, see pictures of their loved ones, and video chat with them; to adult coloring books and crayons or colored pencils, puzzles, crosswords, and the like—“simple things that people don’t always think about.”

All I Want for Christmas is YOU

As Mariah Carey sings, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, the hearts of the caregivers at Home Care Partners of Nebraska (www.homecarepartnersofnebraska.com) go out to families who are away from, quarantined, or not allowed to see their loved ones because of visitation restrictions. There are, however, still ways to make special connections together, and Home Care Partners is working to help seniors who still live at home make important connections.

 

Karla Frese Home Care Partners of Nebraska

Karla Frese
Home Care Partners of Nebraska

“It’s no secret that the holiday season can be stressful,” said Home Care Partners Co-Owner Karla Frese. “A time that should be joyful for all, can be ruined by all the tasks involved with preparing meals and buying gifts. At Home Care Partners, we have compiled a few ideas about how to reduce the stress of the season, so everyone can enjoy spending time with their loved ones.”

For starters, they recommend, get a jump-start on get-togethers. Being well-prepared before holiday gatherings can help you cope with the stress of last-minute preparation. Set aside time to plan menus and gift ideas. You can even cook some dishes together in advance and freeze them. This helps prevent the scramble to do it all at the last minute.

“Many seniors are spending more time alone and some have lost a lot of weight because they are not eating,” Karla said. “We have found that if families or caregivers make a meal or dessert together as an experience, it is improving both nutritional needs and has psychosocial benefits. Start by looking through favorite cookbooks, picking a recipe, creating shopping lists, and doing meal prep together. Serve it at your holiday dinner, or throw it in the freezer for later!”


Cooking, cleaning, shopping, children’s school events, office parties, family gatherings, and travel can combine to make the holidays stressful. The best way to beat holiday stress for seniors is not to do it all alone. Let family or a companion help, shop online, and have it delivered to minimize the stress of crowds and parking lots. Think about what you’re gifting to your friends and loved ones, and order it so it comes in time! If you’re stressing about what to get someone, don’t be afraid to ask them what they want. You can also search online. There are always blogs and videos that give entire lists of items based on the age of an individual.

“Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday for your family,” Karla said. “Focus on the traditions that make holidays special for you. Our team is going above and beyond to make this holiday special for clients with personalized and meaningful moments.”

Modified Traditions

The holidays are steeped in family tradition, with cherished customs that span generations, but when family members get older or experience declining health, maintaining their involvement in the traditions can seem more like a burden—but it’s worth every smile and tear! Although you may not be able to visit and spend quality time with your entire family this Christmas, the home-care specialists at Visiting Angels (www.visitingangels.com) have gotten creative in offering ways to let your loved ones still living in their own homes know that you are thinking of them and that they are dear to you.

Natalie Leon
Visiting Angels

“Start by determining what traditions matter most,” said Visiting Angels Owner Natalie Leon. “Evaluate which traditions or customs of the holiday truly hold meaning for your family and which are just ‘the way we’ve always done things.’ You may learn what matters is different from what you expect, and it may open new ways to celebrate that are easier and more meaningful. Make small modifications that make big differences. For example, if hosting the holiday is important to an older relative, perhaps the family can take care of preparing the table or even taking food over. You can use the family’s serving dishes and favorite china, and your loved one could make one favorite dish, but the bulk of the work could be handled by others. Keeping the number of people to a small member and having only a few family members is better than no celebration at all!”

Another option for maximizing the value of limited time together is to consider hiring senior home care help during the holidays. They can enable older relatives to accomplish everyday tasks and holiday preparations and allow you to spend more time as part of the family, rather than a caregiver. This can also provide a respite that can be crucial during the busy season. Just be sure to screen caregivers carefully or use a reputable agency like Visiting Angels for peace of mind.

So, what if you can’t enjoy in-person holiday festivities at all with your loved ones?

“If you can’t meet in person, pick a book or a movie together to read or watch, then have a discussion about it over the phone or via video chat,” Natalie suggested. “Revisit a classic Christmas movie that both you and your loved one enjoyed in the past or use this opportunity to discover a book or movie that neither of you has read or seen previously. What truly matters is that everyone gets to enjoy the holidays and their relationships. Keeping seniors and other vulnerable populations safe through social distancing is absolutely vital as the coronavirus continues to spread.”

Increased Activities

Having witnessed the increase in loneliness among residents for months now, Pemberly Place (www.pemberlyplace.com) is making a point of increasing activities available for them around the holidays to incorporate things that matter personally to them and bring smiles to their faces.

Pemberly Place provides care designed to meet and exceed the quality benchmarks set forth by the National Center for Assisted living, offering levels of care and services that are tailored to the individual lifestyles of those they serve—from independent living to assisted living to memory-care living. They are locally owned and have an on-site medical clinic to serve many healthcare needs in-house. Their mission is to provide a homelike atmosphere where residents receive 24-hour assistance with living.

Helen Crunk
Pemberly Place

“The holidays typically bring both joyful and sorrowful emotions,” said Pemberly Director and Registered Nurse Helen Crunk. “During this time of COVID, we expect to see an increase in individuals’ needs for emotional support. We increase our activities around the holidays and try to incorporate resident traditions and recipes. Having them help with the holiday decorating is also helpful in decreasing the amount of time they spend alone and increasing their social participation.”

Pemberly Place is known throughout Lincoln for their creative service planning and attention to each resident’s individual needs. They are extremely flexible so they can provide individualized and meaningful care. While Pemberly Place has been forced to limit residents’ normal activities, they have been going above and beyond to keep the seniors in their care as happy as they can be throughout COVID, and they’re stepping up their game plan for the holiday season!

Turn Challenges into Opportunities

Casey Jo Jensma
Legacy Retirement Communities

The challenges of COVID aren’t new anymore, which serves up at least one advantage: We now know the latest and greatest ways to communicate with our loved ones in isolation, thanks to so many technologies. Legacy Retirement Communities (www.legacyretirement.com) Enrichment Director Casey Jo Jansma recommends turning those challenges into opportunities to make new and unique memories that involve the entire family.

“If a senior loved one lives in a retirement community, coordinate with the staff to arrange video calls, deliveries, and reminders to your loved one,” Casey Jo said. “Maybe even include the staff members in on some of the family’s virtual get-togethers. This inclusion of the staff with your family circle can help your loved one feel connected with an ‘honorary family member,’ even if they can’t physically be with their families in person during the holidays. Whether it’s through technology, letters, or small get-togethers, change the challenges from COVID into opportunities to make new memories!”

While 2020 has challenged many to stay connected, employees and residents alike at Legacy Retirement Communities are still going out of their way to engage with the Lincoln community to make sure this Christmas is as joyful as possible. That means getting creative and finding ways to stay involved with the things that matter to them.

“The holiday season already brings a welcomed dose of normalcy with the décor, food, and traditions,” Casey Jo said. “Residents also look forward to this time of year for the opportunity to give back. While they may not be able to volunteer outside of our communities, the enrichment team is working with local nonprofits to help fulfil their needs, as well. Residents can feel good knowing they are able to spread holiday cheer through a variety of projects that can safely be done in our communities. Seeing those donated items, cards, and more being sent out to those in need builds connection, provides a sense of purpose, and lets everyone know that they can be creative in finding ways to give back and spread holiday cheer this year.”

Put in the Extra Effort

Holidays are all about family, and it’s important that elders don’t feel totally alone during the season, even in 2020. Hiring caregivers like those at Care Consultants for the Aging (careconsultants.com) can truly make a tremendous difference in making this Christmas joyful and memorable, if ever-so-different than usual.

 

Julie Benes
Care Consultants for the Aging

“This holiday season is going to be much more difficult for seniors who are away from their families because of forced isolation during the pandemic,” said Home Care Coordinator Julie Benes. “Loneliness and depression will be common, but there are plenty of ways that you can make the holidays special in the midst of COVID. If your loved one is not in senior living, consider hiring a caregiver through Care Consultants. We can help clients shop for gifts, wrap gifts, and decorate for the holidays. We can also assist in preparing and mailing packages, and help with baking or cooking a special meal as a nice alternative for seniors who can’t be with their families in person. It would be a good idea to schedule companion-type visits for your loved one throughout the holidays.”

Video calls are a great way to help seniors and their families feel connected when you can’t visit in person. Seeing your loved one’s smile will go a long way in lifting everyone’s holiday spirits. Care Consultants caregivers can help your elderly loved one navigate video calls and keep them company, so they don’t feel alone and isolated. Companionship will be key during this strangest of holidays.


“Put extra effort into what you send to your elderly loved one this year,” Julie recommended. “Instead of one package, send several small ones at different times. Thoughtful gifts of baked goods or favorite treats are always popular. Pictures, handwritten cards, and letters are thoughtful, too. Think about your family traditions and how you can bring a little bit of that to a loved one. Include the entire family in the preparing and planning, and aim for frequent, even daily, contact.”

The Fitness Factor

Research indicates that regular physical activity for seniors helps improve their mental and physical health. It produces endorphins, which act as a stress reliever and leave them feeling happy, and regular exercise has been linked to improve sleep for seniors, reduces their risk of falls, and improves their social interaction and cognitive function.

The fitness professionals at Right Foot Forward Fitness (www.rightfootforwardfitness.com) in Lincoln offer a variety of ways to help your loved ones—whether in senior living or at home—keep moving. In November, they launched a new online/remote coaching program that delivers custom programming with full-length workout videos customized for each individual. They use positive reinforcement and encouragement to help participants, regardless of age and ability, to achieve their goals, no matter how big or small.

More than Housing

If you have loved ones that are looking for independent senior-living options that include opportunities for engagement, another good option is to contact the Lincoln Housing Authority (www.l-housing.com). They pride themselves on providing “more than housing” and nowhere is that more evident that at Burke Plaza, Crossroads House, and Mahoney Manor, which offers more than 270 older men and women who live there access to a wide variety of social and personal support services through the Resident Services and Congregate Housing Services programs.

The Foundation for the Resident Services Program is the Resident Services Specialist at each building. Their job is to provide general support to residents and offers a range of activities and programs to enhance the overall quality of life at each building. They also plan and educate the tenants on the building’s emergency and urgent-response systems. The Congregate Housing Services Program brings the services of two full-time social workers, who share time between all buildings, and it brings hot meals served six days a week to Burke Plaza and Mahoney Manor.

It is the mission of the Lincoln Housing Authority to provide affordable, safe, sanitary, and decent housing to qualifying families currently undergoing financial stress in a manner which affords applicants and tenants dignity and minimal intrusion, within the limits of prudent fiscal management. Burke Plaza Apartments, off 67th and L Streets, is a 91-unit high-rise apartment building designed for seniors and persons with disabilities. Crossroads House Apartments, located at 1000 O St. is a 58-unit, seven-story apartment complex designed for seniors 55 years and older, with access to a full range of downtown cultural events, recreational groups, and senior services. The complex is across the street from the Lincoln Downtown Senior Center. Mahoney Manor Apartments are located in the historic Havelock neighborhood in northeast Lincoln, just two blocks from the Havelock business district.

Plenteous Tremendous Senior Options

If you’re seeking 24-hour, long-term care for your loved one but don’t need “fancy,” it’s important to focus on what matters: care, comfort, and cost. Orchard Park Assisted Living (orchardpark.us) prides itself on being the best at what matters, without breaking the bank. Rather than being a resort-style local that pushes irrelevant bells and whistles, they provide a community that feels like home—familiar, comfortable, and rife with friendly faces at every turn. This is especially comforting for seniors during the holidays, when all they want is to be home with their families. Orchard Park Assisted Living has more registered nurses on staff than any other assisted living facility in town. The result is more thorough, thoughtful care for residents across a wide range of aging-related health issues.

If it’s short-term rehabilitation services your loved one needs, Hillcrest Firethorn (www.hillcresthealth.com/locations/hillcrest-firethorn) is an exceptionally innovative provider in Lincoln. With a new building featuring all private suites and one of the area’s largest rehab gyms, Hillcrest Firethorn is focused on helping aging adults recover from surgery, illness, or hospital stays until they are able to return home. Often, the rehab guests at Firethorn receive health services from Hillcrest Home Care, which provides continuity of care and therapy under one provider. Hillcrest Firethorn also has a limited number of long-term accommodations for seniors who need 24-hour skilled nursing care.

All of The Waterford Communities (thewaterford.net) offer a home-life environment and a host of amenities that allow residents to maintain their independence and the quality of life they deserve. One unique aspect of The Waterford Communities is their size. They are small in comparison to many of their competitors, with the largest assisted-living community including 41 apartments. Waterford says the smaller community lends itself to more of a small-town feel that many residents say feels more like a home than a facility. Lower resident numbers also enable them to get to know their residents and customize care to meet each person where they are on their journey.

Grammercy Hill (capitalsenior.com/community/gramercy-hill) offers both independent and assisted-living housing and services in Lincoln. Located on six acres of luscious gardens and floral walking paths, the community invites residents to enjoy comfort and relaxation while taking advantage of exceptional services. They offer residents a vibrant lifestyle that encourages health and independence through innovative recreational, educational, health, and wellness programs. Spacious apartments provide peace of mind and thoughtful safety features.

The Woodlands at Hillcrest (woodlandsathillcrest.com) also works closely with residents to meet their individual needs, including specific diet concerns, to make sure that everyone is in an environment that suits them perfectly. The Woodlands has a vibrant, easy-going style and a truly unique living experience in a beautiful location that is growing with the addition of new neighborhoods and businesses. They have a wide range of assisted-living services all way to memory care. Their goals is to provide the best possible community so that when someone moves there, they want to stay there and make it their last move.

If you’re looking for active senior living, for anyone 55 and older, Carriage Glen (carriageglenoflincoln.com) is a fabulous option. Nestled among mature trees and natural surroundings, it is close to shopping, dining, medical facilities, and area activities – yet comfortably removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. Envision time to develop new interests or pursue familiar ones through a community that promotes physical and mental well-being and the active, independent lifestyle you’ve earned.

If you’re still not sure what senior-living facility is right for your loved one but want a smooth transition to senior living, you’d be wise to contact Oasis Senior Advisors (www.oasissenioradvisors.com). Not only are they experienced transition specialists, but you’ll never get a bill from them for helping you navigate the transition to the senior community that meets your specific needs to a tee. All of their services are free to seniors and their family. They’ll learn about you, what is important to you, and what you will need both now and in the future. It makes the whole process worry-free.

The Really Tough Stuff

It’s never a comfortable conversation and often overwhelming and awkward, but if you have loved ones in senior living, planning ahead for what they want when their time on earth ends is such a crucial thing to do. Wyuka Funeral Home (wyuka.com) is there to help decide upon and record both your loved ones and your own end-of-life wishes. Pre-planning can help every individual make an informed and thoughtful decision about their funeral, choosing sentimental things they want included, comparing prices, and helping your family. Wyuka offers a pre-planning checklist with all the information you need to start the process, and they’ll help walk you through the entire process.

When you or a loved one passes away, your family will be making numerous important decisions, while also grieving. Pre-planning can help your family plan with ease when the time comes. Your family can confidently put a loved one’s plan into action, knowing that these were their wishes. Working with Wyuka to create a plan in advance also leaves your loved one with the peace of mind that their family has been relieved of making burdensome decisions during their time of loss. Once completed, you can rest assured that your and your loved ones’ plans are in the hands of trusted individuals—without forcing anyone to make decisions in a hurried manner. You do not have to pay for a plan in advance, unless you choose to, so it’s never too soon to get started.

Weaving Dreams

The Dreamweaver Foundation has long been known as the nonprofit that brought terminally ill seniors their dreams—from motorcycle rides to car shows to VIP passes on game day. In 2020, however, they changed gears with the times to give seniors in senior-living communities what they needed and continue to need most amid COVID restrictions: Face-to-face time with family and friends, even if it’s virtual. Through their Connecting Hope Campaign, the Dreamweaver Foundation provided 122 Facebook Portals to seniors in 21 different senior facilities in Lincoln and Omaha, including Sumner Place Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation (www.sumnerplacecare.com).

Team members and family worked to set up the Portals with contacts to every family member and friend the seniors might want to call. It’s a perfect device for seniors who might not be tech-savvy because it is so easy to use and works with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, so you can reach virtually anyone with a smartphone. It also has a smart camera that keeps you in frame, even if you’re moving around a room. Portals even provide some fun built-in apps for seniors, keeping them engaged without invading their privacy.

 

Megan Herter
Sumner Place Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation

“We are doing everything possible to keep our residents active, while absolutely protecting their health and well-being,” 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 will continue helping families connect with their loved ones via technologies such as Facebook Portal, as well as online video applications, pictures, letters, and online messages.”

Gift Ideas for Seniors

The senior-living experts we talked with combined to create a tremendous shopping list of perfect gift ideas for seniors who are spending more time alone than ever, so you can find the right gifts to keep your loved one engaged and thriving. There’s a lot of creative thinking involved here, so get out your pen and finish your gift list:

  • Technology, including voice-activated music and Echo Show 8, which allow family members to “drop in” on a loved one for a video visit; ViewClix, which is an electronic picture frame that provides constant visual connections to family but is also at the ready to receive video calls; daily or at least weekly phone calls; motion-activated, stick-anywhere LED lights; a tablet to play games or video call—or watch the latest funny-cat videos; electric photo frames to which families can upload new photos often; audio-book subscriptions; electronic games; their favorite music.
  • Custom photo albums or wall calendars that show birthdays and anniversaries, along with smiling faces; anything that can stimulate their mind and increase their activity level; a supply of greeting cards, stamps; photos of past holidays; books to read; jigsaw puzzles of less than 500 pieces, adult coloring books, craft projects and art supplies; large-print playing cards and games, like Sudoku; paints and canvas, cross-stitch projects, word-search books, and jewelry
  • Gifts of comfort, such as weighted blankets, compression socks, adaptive clothing, a super-cozy robe, an aromatherapy mister, a fabulous pillow; scented lotions, seasonal treats or snacks, a blanket with family pictures to wrap themselves in for comfort and enjoyment; and the gift of companionship.
    Helpful items like a cup holder for their wheelchair; a walker caddy or tote bag; a gel or memory-foam seat cushion; an electric toothbrush; a rechargeable shaver; a mobility cane or grab bar.

The holiday season is a great joy for so many people, rife with family memories and traditions, shining stars, and heartfelt stories of love. With COVID running the show in 2020, the holidays promise to look very different, with fewer gatherings and planning challenges arising at every turn. As you lay out your plans to bring warmth and love to your holiday season, be sure to keep your eldery loved ones front and center in your minds and hearts. Even if you can’t see them in person, there are many ways to engage them and make them feel the joy, too. We’ve provided the advice and suggestions of some of the best senior-care experts in Lincoln here, and we hope you will take them to heart this Blessed holiday season!