We are told to “expect the unexpected,” – but how does one do that, really? Unplanned life changes can be uncomfortable and come with a string of emotions, ranging from anger and fear to helplessness and worry. It’s common to feel a sense of loss that comes with unexpected changes, as we are pulled away from what is familiar and comfortable. For seniors and their loved ones who find themselves in these situations, life can be challenging
for some time as adjustments are made.

We spoke to local businesses and professionals who offered some words of wisdom and encouragement for us to share with our readers, seniors, and their loved ones who want to prepare for the event of unexpected changes – or those who may be going through unforeseen changes right now. The most common advice received is to plan ahead before something unexpected even happens. While it may seem obvious, it’s not always at the top of our minds when we seem to be living a healthy, stable life. If you are going to plan ahead for anything, we encourage you to, at the very least, plan ahead for the inevitable.

Each of us will one day pass, but when it comes suddenly, it’s often one of the most challenging unexpected changes a family may face. Not only is this a painful time for all involved, but the family is needed to make important decisions during a trying time. To avoid being in this difficult situation, we encourage families and their senior loved ones to speak with a professional about pre-planning for when the time comes.

By prearranging funeral and cemetery services, families won’t be caught off guard by the decisions they have to make and ultimately the cost of those services that are due at the time a loved one passes. Adam Shull, family service
counselor with Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home & Cemetery (dignitymemorial.com/funeral-homes/lincoln-ne/lincoln-memorial-funeral-home/9841), offered a few words on why it is important to plan ahead so that the family can avoid this difficult situation.

Adam Shull
Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home & Cemetery

“We never want to see families come in unprepared and uninformed when planning a funeral or burial for a loved one who has passed,” said Adam. “Unfortunately, many of the families we work with end up in just that situation. On one of the worst days of their life, they have to answer so many difficult questions in a very short amount of time, and they walk away wondering if they did the right thing. We encourage pre-planning funeral arrangements to avoid making an already tragic situation even more trying.”

In addition to protecting your family from financial stress at the time of your death, prepaid funeral plans can also help you save money. When you buy a guaranteed plan that specifies the exact goods and services you want, the price you agree to is locked in, no matter when your death occurs. That means even if the prices go up, your loved ones won’t have to pay more.

“Lincoln Memorial is with you and your family during the prearrangement process, at the time of passing, and even after the services have occurred by providing your family with a number of financial and grief resources,” Adam concluded.

Minimize the Stress with Immanuel

Often, when a senior faces an unplanned medical event, once the acuteness subsides, they will quickly begin thinking of recovery. If there is not someone in the home who can be a caregiver, short-term rehab may be the answer. Immanuel (immanuel.com) offers individual short-term or rehab care at Cove and Harbor Houses in Lincoln on the Landing campus.

Connie Chisholm

“Immanuel is deeply rooted in Nebraska,” said Director of Communications Connie Chisholm. “We were founded in Omaha over 130 years ago and since then have been committed to a not-for-profit mission. What this means for residents and their family is they can be confident and know that we are dedicated to what is in the interest of those we serve. We consistently invest directly into enhancing programming, updating our buildings, and supporting other like-minded community organizations. It’s the difference in knowing decisions are being made in the best interest of those who matter most – seniors.”

Immanuel has found that the best way to minimize stress for both seniors and their families during times of change is to start planning sooner rather than later. Know the senior living options and create a plan – even if it is a rough plan. The best way to begin this process is by visiting a few senior living communities to see how it feels for you or your loved one prior to being faced with an immediate need.

“At Immanuel, we have 16 communities on 11 campuses in Omaha and Lincoln, as well as Council Bluffs and Des Moines, IA,” shared Connie. “They all have a different feel and flavor. While each of our communities may be all different in name and location, the care and service remain the same: Christ Centered Service to Seniors, Each Other, and the Community.”

Assisted Living at an Affordable Cost

Orchard Park Assisted Living (orchardpark.us) Founders Virgil and Jan Carner didn’t set out to create a fancy living facility or nursing home with resort-style amenities and gourmet chefs that came with a big hit on the wallet. Instead, they saw the need for a community where seniors could simply continue living the way to which they were accustomed. When life comes at you with a big unexpected change, keeping things as normal as possible is often the route everyone wants to take. Orchard Park keeps their focus on what they believe is most important at an affordable cost.

Gayleen Bradley
Orchard Park Assisted Living

“If you are faced with a sudden change for yourself or a family member, it can feel overwhelming. This is when you need to find a community to meet your needs and go the extra mile to put you at ease – this is what the staff at Orchard Park will do,” explained Administrator Gayleen Bradley.

Orchard Park provides additional care for bathing, medication management, laundry, transportation, and meals. Their friendly staff and residents will keep your loved one company during this transition, and don’t be surprised if new friendships quickly blossom.

“What makes Orchard Park unique is that we work hard to find a sense of purpose for our residents,” said Gayleen. “That may be working in the vegetable or flower gardens or participating in all the different activities we provide to our residents, such as exercise class, playing cards, or enjoying the on-site beauty and barbershop.”

When Making Decisions, Understand Your Values

Being a locally-owned and family-run company, Legacy Retirement Communities (legacyretirement.com) operates on a theory that every individual who walks through their doors is treated like their own family. The values and culture of their communities – family, compassion, integrity, community, and quality – are evident through the staff’s actions every single day. Their retirement living advisors work with individuals and their family members on the basis that they are there to serve and assist folks through the process, regardless of whether or not they pick a Legacy community in the end.

Nate Liermann
Legacy Retirement Communities

“Taking the first step is often the hardest step to take and yes, change is very difficult,” explained Nate Liermann, retirement living advisor at Legacy Terrace. “Being prepared by doing your research and making phone calls to various communities in your area will allow you to have a better understanding of retirement living and the options they provide. After you get a good understanding of what there is to offer, think about what values are important to you and find a community that aligns with them.”

Nate explained that understanding what you value as you begin the process of adjusting to unplanned changes will allow you to set yourself up for success and live the life that you want to live.

“With no one having a crystal ball to tell us what the future may look like, it can be challenging to prepare for any sort of change in your life,” Nate concluded. “Beginning this process early to educate yourself and your family will make those unplanned life changes easier to get through. Retirement communities don’t have to be the next step, but it is a possible solution. I encourage everyone to be informed, educated, and proactive about their futures.”

Prolong Independence at Home with a Caregiver

Staying independent in your own home is something we all strive for as we age, so an unexpected event that threatens this independence can be not only hard to accept, but hard to adjust to. This is where CCA Home Care (ccahomecare.com) steps in. They screen and refer independent contracted caregivers who work for families and provide client-directed care, ensuring that you make the decisions regarding your care for that of your loved one. Having a private caregiver in your home for short periods of time will allow family the peace of mind to know their loved ones are being visited, and can give the client peace of mind knowing someone is there to check on them.

“CCA Home Care is the state’s largest home care registry,” said President and CEO Kyle Johnson. “The caregivers we provide work privately for clients who are in need of additional help. Many of these caregivers are certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and services through CCA are paid for on an hourly basis. Rates typically range from $21.50–$28.50 per hour, depending on length of visit, care needed, and client location.”

Another wonderful feature of CCA Home Care is their ElderCare Resource Handbook. Full of local senior living resources, it is published in both Lincoln and Omaha so that you can find the best options for you in your specific location. If you don’t have a printed copy, you can fi nd each book online at OmahaHandbook.com or LincolnHandbook.com. Advertisers throughout the book allow CCA Home Care to print and hand out thousands of copies each year at no cost to the end user.

Long-term Care, Wherever You Need

Home Care Partners (homecarepartnersofnebraska.com) supports seniors’ needs throughout their long-term care continuum with care management and thoughtful, quality, dedicated care brought to wherever your loved one resides. Their care management services provide consistent, high-quality communication with healthcare and other service providers, as well as expert resources. Home Care Partners collaborates with the interdisciplinary teams in the healthcare continuum. That may involve therapy or hospice teams (RN, PT, OT, ST); providing schedule coordination; medication management; or setting step goals for restorative care to maintain the baseline of functionality with a home exercise/strength/balance program to continue progress.

Karla Frese
Home Care Partners

“Without this coordinated support, 40-60% of recently discharged patients will experience a decline in four to six weeks and risk possible readmissions,” advised Managing Partner Karla Frese. “We need to maintain strength, balance, and endurance. This may also involve our team monitoring and reporting vitals, ensuring all follow-up appointments are held, and providing family updates and education.”

When suddenly faced with the need for additional care, Karla suggests looking for an opening before starting the conversation with your loved one. It may be helpful to reference an article you recently read or something you saw on the news to break the ice. For example: “I’m starting to think about estate planning, do you have any advice?” or “I just read an article about gathering all your important papers. Can you show me where yours are and what you’d like us to do just in case?”

“Express love and concern, and most importantly, listen,” said Karla. “Expect resistance and be honest about your expectations and/or limitations. Respect your loved one’s wishes. Make sure they are participating in the conversation as much as possible. It’s important to center your caregiving plan on the wishes of the person receiving the care.”

Safe and Secure Memory Care

Agemark Senior Living is the parent company of CountryHouse Residence for Memory Care (countryhouse.net), which has established three locations in Lincoln. These assisted living communities provide secured memory care in home-like surroundings.

Marcia Houchin
CountryHouse Residence for Memory Care

“There are many types of care and sometimes the hardest part is knowing which is needed – skilled, rehab, assisted, in-home chore or companion services, home health, memory support, or even hospice – so a thorough needs assessment is your first step,” said Marcia Houchin, vice president of life enrichment at Agemark. “Once your loved one’s doctor or other care provider has recommended additional care, you can begin looking. In addition to searching online and checking reviews, be sure to ask friends and family who have gone through this before.”

Marcia also suggested contacting a local consulting company whose sole focus is helping families find the right place for someone who needs more care, or visiting the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ website (dhhs.ne.gov) to view a roster of licensed care facilities. For those that choose an Agemark Senior Living community, Marcia says family can rest assured that their loved one will be highly prioritized.

“Every effort is made to welcome your family to ours, accommodate personal preferences, and help make each day the best it can be through our state-of-the-art life enrichment program,” said Marcia. “Our free transportation service helps residents stay connected to the people and places they love. And because family is so important, we offer educational programs and regular family events as well as Caregiver Connections, a monthly meeting to support those who are caring for a loved one with dementia conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Finally, we offer LifeLoop for families, which keeps them ‘in the loop’ through weekly updates and one-on-one messaging.”

Unplanned Changes are a New Chapter

The Waterford Communities (thewaterford.net) encourages any senior who is dealing with unexpected changes to look at it as a new chapter of their life in which the focus is on their health and their connections with friends and family.

Gracia Kremer
The Waterford Communities

“When you move into an assisted living community, you have assistance and amenities offered to you at your convenience,” said Gracia Kremer, executive director. “Take advantage of this! These offerings are there to make your day-to-day routine easier, which in turn also gives you more time during the day to do as you please. This may be improving your health, spending more time with friends or family, or devoting more time to a beloved hobby.”

The Waterford Communities is made up of three smaller communities: Williamsburg Assisted Living, College View Assisted Living, and Wilderness Hills Memory Care. Each community strives to make your loved one’s transition into a senior living community seamless by offering individualized care and working to accommodate special requests in their home-like environment.

“When life changes unexpectedly, it’s difficult – that’s no doubt,” said Gracia. “You can rarely ever change what has happened to you – but you are in control of how you respond.”

Quality Senior Living Communities

MJ Senior Living is committed to providing the best senior housing service through their communities located in Nebraska, two of which are found right here in Lincoln. Fallbrook Assisted Living & Memory Care (fallbrookassisted.com) provides an environment that will relieve the stress your loved one may feel from living alone through great food, friends close by, entertaining things to do, a private apartment to call your own, and a caring staff available whenever needed. Their assisted living apartments are carefully created for the active senior who prefers the additional security of having assistance nearby if necessary. Fallbrook’s memory care is led by the MJ Signature Memory Care Program, offered in a highly controlled environment specially designed for individuals with dementia. A brain-friendly meal program, Alzheimer’s Lounge, Journey Stations, ongoing educational opportunities for family members, and staff well-trained in all aspects of dementia make Fallbrook’s memory care facility exceptional.

MJ Senior Living’s newest acquisition, Pemberly Place (pemberlyplace.com), offers independent and assisted living as well as memory care; this makes the community especially ideal as a resident’s level of care can be adjusted as their needs change. As a new member of the MJ Senior Living family, they are thrilled to be implementing the MJ Senior Living quality of care standards, as well as the MJ Signature Memory Care Program. Right next to providing compassionate care for the seniors residing in their home, Pemberly prioritizes helping families find the best senior community for their loved one. They don’t have a competitive spirit when it comes to helping seniors find the right place for them; rather, they do their best to help them find safety and comfort, as well as ensure they are placed somewhere they are happy and fulfilled during this chapter of life.

In the event of something unexpected, Sumner Place Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation (sumnerplacecare.com) will welcome your loved one into their community as though you’re already a part of the family. It is a licensed skilled nursing facility that provides long-term care, short-term rehabilitation services, and memory support. They strive to enrich the lives of their residents through regular activities and daily spiritual services. Their services include their restorative program, therapy programs, specialized and therapeutic diets, morning rounds by their medical director, a beauty and barber shop, and outings in the community when permitted. In addition, Sumner Place offers specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and individualized programs that are designed to reduce feelings of confusion, fear, and agitation and offer meaningful, enjoyable activities that stimulate the mind and body.

Live Joyfully, Age Gratefully at Tabitha

The senior care services at Tabitha (tabitha.org) can bring reassurance and confidence when a senior loved one falls ill or gets injured. They include results-driven rehabilitation, accessible at-home health care, innovative living communities, and compassionate hospice care. They also offer a new service that supports chronically ill clients in between their doctor visits called Tabitha Care+Plus.

Aubrey Paulsen

“When facing the need for additional care, start with Tabitha,” said Senior Living Advisor Manager Aubrey Paulsen. “Once you choose Tabitha, our senior care experts work with each client, along with their entire support system, to determine current needs as well as to anticipate how those needs may evolve. They always keep in mind the goal to provide loving, compassionate, and professional care that enhances the safety and well-being of older adults while proactively avoiding the need to make major life and health decisions during times of crisis. Even if we can’t provide the help, we have the resources that can direct you to someone who can.”

Aubrey acknowledged that it can be difficult to have that needed discussion about life changes or challenges, but reminded us that it’s a necessary first step in getting your loved one the care they deserve. Tabitha has experts available to help families through these tough conversations. In addition to this, Aubrey also shared with us Tabitha’s mission as a nonprofit, faith-based organization.

“Our focus is on our purpose to empower people to live joyfully, age gratefully – rather than on margin,” Aubrey said. “More than 50% of those we serve don’t have the financial resources for the care they need and deserve. At Tabitha, no one is ever turned away because of their inability to pay.”

Stay Comfortable and Cared For at Home

With a sudden new illness, diagnosis, or accident, Visiting Angels (visitingangels.com) can provide a caregiver for your senior loved one from anywhere between three-hour care to 24-hour care. Life changes can be temporary or long-term; Visiting Angels can help with both. Each of their caregivers has a strong employment history in caring for seniors, along with reliable references from previous clients, agencies, and volunteer agencies. Visiting Angels only delivers well-screened caregivers to provide the family with peace of mind during a new chapter.

Julie Day
Visiting Angels

“Our staff makes all the difference,” said Client Care Coordinator Julie Day. “We listen to you and evaluate your needs, offering years of experience on what to do next. We don’t just put names in open shifts. We meet as an office to discuss our clients’ needs and which caregiver best fits those needs. Personal preferences in terms of personality and style of caregiving are accommodated. Plus, our follow-up is second to none. If it looks like you need additional services, we are plugged into what Lincoln offers and work with many good companies to meet all your changing needs.”

Julie also emphasized the importance of utilizing the help that is available to you. Many families exhaust themselves as caregivers before they finally reach out for help. By contact Visiting Angels early on in these life changes, families can be relieved of stress and avoid burnout.

“One thing is certain,” Julie explained, “we will all age and will likely need some level of assistance in the future. It could be temporary help such as after a surgery, illness, or a fall, or it may be long-term changes. Visiting Angels exists so that people can stay in their homes. Educate yourself now so when you feel like you need a little extra help, you can be confident in knowing that we can help you.”

Quality Home Health Supplies

Is your insurance company limiting your access to quality products? If so, we encourage you to reach out to Triumph Home Health Supplies, Inc. (triumphhomehealth.com) They are a catheter, incontinence, enteral, wound, and ostomy provider located in Lincoln covering the Midwest. Nationally, there is a movement to address this issue of limited access to health supplies. Your clinicians prescribe the product for you based on your medical needs. When this is contradicted by insurance coverage criteria, the consequences are detrimental. Studies show urinary tract infections for substandard catheters used in a clinical setting are on the rise and an increase in skin care costs when improper incontinent products are used for incontinence cares.

Triumph encourages consumers to stay vigilant with their insurance, as advantage plans are hyper-funding their advertising campaigns to get you to use their product. Be sure to check with your entire medical team to be sure everyone is in network. Increasingly, Triumph is seeing insurance companies begin to exclude certain products within certain plans. No one has a crystal ball and predicting your health is impossible. If an insurance plan excludes catheters, and you are diagnosed with radical prostatectomy, then you are in for an unexpected medical cost.

When insurance companies claim low premiums with robust networks, be sure their network meets your needs. Call the providers you already work with. Triumph is always happy to look at a plan and to confirm product coverage. Be proactive versus reactive, and do your homework. A couple of phone calls to your trusted team members can yield massive results when dealing with the National Insurance Industry hard pressing you for your business!

Post-Injury Health Improvements

Right Foot Forward Fitness (rightfootforwardfitness.com) has extensive experience working with senior health and fitness. Their team loves helping seniors lead an active lifestyle or get back their strength after an injury or surgery. Owner Jeff Madsen shared with us a common mistaken belief he sees often in seniors going through rehabilitation, and offered something he wants everyone to keep in mind in the event they go through an unexpected change in the future:

Jeff Madsen

Jeff Madsen
Right Foot Forward Fitness

“The misconception I see most often after an unplanned life change is the idea that after acute medical care and following therapeutic treatment, things are ‘as good as they’re going to get,’” shared Jeff. “This is seldom the case. Improvements in strength, bone density (in some cases limited to a deceleration of bone mineral density loss), proprioception, balance, and mobility are still available to all of us. We just have to stay focused on appropriate, safe movement patterns.”

Loading exercises, or the cumulative amount of exercise you’re doing over a timespan such as a week, may not be necessary or appropriate to begin with, but can be added in overtime. It may include bands, suspension systems (like TRX), small hand weights, etc. Jeff explained that these exercises can also be scaled to seated exercises, if that’s appropriate.

“My desire would be that, on an individual level, people will appreciate the physical abilities, mental toughness, and
adaptation to exercise-induced stress that is available to everyone, regardless of age or physical challenges,” Jeff said. “This is a passion of mine that has been inspired by the work I’ve done with my own clients.”

A Concierge Pharmacy

As we age or suffer from sudden injury or illness, we inevitably deal with the need for medications, which can become a huge hassle, and finding a pharmacy you can count on can be a challenge. That’s why we recommend Nebraska LTC Pharmacy (neltcpharmacy.com). They strive to offer the “small-town” level of service to help seniors prolong their independence, especially in the event of an unexpected change.

Hannah Fitzsimmons
Nebraska LTC Pharmacy

“We provide compliance packaging, in-home consultations, delivery, and an on-site pharmacist for any questions you may have,” shared New Patient Intake Specialist Hannah Fitzsimmons. “In my position, I meet patients in their homes to answer any questions they may have and help families create a custom care plan for their loved one.”

Nebraska LTC Pharmacy doesn’t keep you waiting – as soon as you are admitted to the pharmacy, they will meet with you either in-store or in-home to create a custom care plan to fit your specific needs. They want to ensure that quality care continues to be available to you or your loved one during a life-changing event.

“We understand change is scary,” said Hannah. “We offer flexibility and availability to accommodate you during a challenging time. A lot of seniors tend to believe that they are doing fine without any additional services. While that may be the case for some, we want to assure those concerned about moving forward that our main goal is to make things easier with additional assistance – not to take any independence away.”

All the Senior Living Resources in One Place

While it seems clear to plan ahead in the event something unexpected comes up, we cannot plan for every scenario, and despite our every effort, things happen that care is needed suddenly. When that happens to you, someone you

Beth Friesen
Oasis Senior Advisors

care for, or perhaps a patient of yours, call Oasis Senior Advisors (oasissenioradvisors.com/lincoln). They can walk you through all of your options, including in-home, independent, assisted, and memory-care communities—and all of their services are free!

“In addition to senior housing, we can connect you with many resources across our community,” Owner Beth Friesen said. “Some examples include in-home care, skilled nursing, home health, veterans’ benefits, elder law attorneys, and so much more. One call does it all when that call is to Oasis! We do more than just help you find a place for your loved one. We welcome you into our Oasis family, provide resources, advocate for both you and your loved ones, and provide a listening ear and shoulder to lean on. You don’t have to do this alone. We do this because it is our calling to serve those around us, and there is never a charge to you or your loved one to use our services.”

Pre-planning for the Unplanned

Once again, there are no words to explain how difficult and sorrowful it can be when a loved one passes unexpectedly. Planning a funeral when in this position can be overwhelming and stressful. We strongly recommend pre-planning your funeral and cemetery arrangements, and Wyuka Funeral Home & Cemetery (wyuka.com) is a wonderful choice that will help you and your family prepare for this day and ensure your wishes are fulfilled. By taking advantage of their pre-planning services, an individual can make informed and thoughtful decisions about their funeral. They can choose sentimental things they want included, compare prices, and help their 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 before a catastrophic event can force the issue. In the event that a loved one suddenly passes before arrangements are made, Wyuka will still be there to help you get through the tragic time, explaining and guiding you through each step of the process. They also have available an extensive list of grief resources and outreach that can be provided upon request.

We recommend reaching out to these local businesses to help you get through unplanned changes and adjust to the next chapter of life.