Unplanned Life Changes in Lincoln, NE – 2019
In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter that said, in part: “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Franklin’s wry words have become a popular idiom, especially, around tax season, because he recognized that the future will always bring trouble. We all have to consider what kinds of difficulties and unplanned circumstances could arise in the future. Some of these unplanned circumstances are caused by accidents or illness, others by old age, but preparation can help families navigate difficult circumstances.
While some things are unavoidable, there are ways to prevent illnesses or injuries by living healthy and taking care of your body. Poor posture and physical strain on the muscles can cause discomfort and even lead to more serious health concerns. This is why Dr. Troy Hayes with Express Life Chiropractic says their vision is to make Lincoln one of the healthiest communities by preventing health problems created by different types of stress. “One of the most common ways physical stress plays a roll on our bodies is through poor posture,” Dr. Troy added. “This leads to stress on your tissues, leading to a decreased cervical curve, which creates more stress and pressure on your nervous system.” In contrast, emotional stress can lead to health problems like ulcers. “Our society, as a whole, falls into a reactive care mindset, instead of a proactive mindset. We love to see when people are proactive with their health and aches and pain, because the greatest gift that you can give your family and your community is your health,” said Dr. Troy.
When someone young or old experiences an injury, Rehabilitation care focuses on providing temporary help to recover. Kelli Reilly, MS, PT, ATC at Husker Rehabilitation and Wellness Centers pointed out that young athletes and everyday drivers can have accidents that require physical rehabilitation. “Husker Rehab provides physical therapy for a wide array of injuries including motor vehicle accidents, workers compensation, and unexpected injuries from falls, sports, and everyday life,” Kelli said.
With years of experience in sports medicine and helping orthopedic patients after surgery, Kelli has been employed as a contract physical therapist since moving to Lincoln in 2009. At Husker Rehabilitation Center, therapists emphasize these important values:
- The body is holistic, meaning that overall posture is an important first step to recovery along with individual therapies for a specific injury.
- The customer’s goals and needs are central to creating a recovery program.
- A fun, polite environment for residents that promotes their recovery and health.
Another option, one that is practical for families who prefer independent care, is in-home care. It has become popular for those who wishing to remain in their own home but still require some additional help. As the owner of Graceful In Home Healthcare, Grace Kats, RN/BSN-CHH, mentioned that an unplanned event or accident is often a strong motivating factor for families to reach out to care services, for seniors and young people. “They are searching for answers to the many questions of how to navigate their way through healthcare and finding answers to the many questions of how and where do they find the help and resources they need for themselves or loved ones,” Grace said.
As Nebraska has earned a reputation for being a welcoming home for immigrants, Grace acknowledged that language and cultural differences can be a factor for some families when deciding on care options. “At Graceful, we help navigate those who are not familiar with in-home health care navigate through the process. We also offer French, Spanish, and Kurdistan speaking staff,” Grace informed us.
What may surprise most people who are considering in home care is how common it is becoming for the senior population. As Kimberly Hopkins with Visiting Angels pointed out, one in four Americans, ages 65 and over, fall each year. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Kimberly hasn’t just experienced these tragedies in her line of work, it is also something that has affected her own family. “Last summer, my 77-year-old Grandpa fell in his hallway in the middle of the night,” Kimberly shared. “He suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stage 4, and had been declining in his health prior to this fall. Our family had decided months prior that, for our peace of mind, we would have him wear a Life Alert necklace. He was able to use his Life Alert and family was able to respond quickly to his home and help him off the floor. This fall started many falls over the next week, as his strength and health declined rapidly. Hospice was brought in seven days a week. They provided him with a hospital bed and kept him comfortable. Up to this point, he lived on his own, he now needed around-the-clock care. Our family was able to step in to provide this care. Though, many families find this challenging, as they have families of their own to care for, along with jobs and other daily responsibilities.”
Unlike other care options, hospice care is specialized for individuals facing a serious illness, including end of life care. However, many residents of hospice care continue to live long and fulfilling lives. As Tasha Schueth, a nurse at Hospice Community Care of Nebraska, explained it, “The most important thing we can do is offer unbiased supports by meeting people where they are at physically, emotionally, and spiritually. With the vast knowledge and experience of our team, we are able to offer a wide range of resources, not only through our organization, but also community wide such as guidance for financial assistance, grief support groups, and 24-hour access to medical expertise.”
As a wife and mother, in addition to being a nurse with eight years of experience, Tasha has seen how unplanned life events can greatly affect daily life. “As I look back, I realize every individual story is different. I have learned through my experiences how important it is to show empathy, compassion, understanding, and adaptability. With these experiences, I have learned to help individuals navigate through their personal hardship and find comfort in the uniqueness of their own experience,” explained Tasha.
If someone waits for an accident or an illness to affect their family, this can limit their options to address problems quickly. Beth Friesen, RN, CCM, CSA and owner of Oasis Senior Advisors in Lincoln, explained that unplanned life events often force unprepared families into a stressful decision making process. “These events are typically what propel a senior and/or their family to determine that a move to a senior living community needs to happen,” Beth addressed. “However, a serious injury, illness, or diagnosis can send people scurrying to find something for their loved one. This is when their lives and Oasis Senior Advisors often intersect. It doesn’t offend me, but people seldom reach out to us because they are having a good day.”
Beth believes that, by offering complimentary services, they can help families be more prepared. “My best advice is to be proactive when planning for senior living,” added Beth. “The best time to move is before one of these events occur. Wait too long and you may miss your window of opportunity (W.O.O.) for independent or even assisted living, and sometimes the only alternative is skilled nursing care.”
During her time providing complimentary services to seniors, Beth has observed that moving into a senior living community can be a hopeful time. “Everything is new and people often wonder if they will fit in,” noted Beth. “Will I like it there? Will I make new friends? What will the food be like? These are all very normal things to be concerned about,” she added. “Having your loved one in a safe, secure, and nurturing environment will bring peace to everyone, even if this unplanned life event was a little bumpy for a time.”
During the early days following a significant life change, many families experience stress. When we talked to Virginia Cole at Fallbrook Assisted Living and Memory Care, she talked about how she has observed how a lot of people don’t know where to begin to find answers. “We spend a great deal of time learning the senior’s story and helping them identify what the needs are for themselves or their loved one,” explained Virginia. She advises families to look for a care provider who is concerned for the emotional and social needs of their residents.
As an example, Virginia told us about how a cancer diagnosis affected the family of one of their residents. “Our community recently had the honor of caring for someone with dementia who was also given a life limiting diagnosis of cancer,” shared Virginia. “We were able to support the family with both memory care and physical and clinical care to remedy the terminal diagnostic. We did this by partnering with hospice to aid in the comfort and dignity at the end of life. Our staff provided care and compassion to the family as well as our resident. Our community was able to care for the resident’s changing needs so the family could experience the gift of quality time with their loved one. While these times are not easy for the resident, family, or community staff, they are a mission of heart.”
For families navigating health problems that their senior loved ones face, knowledge is one of the most precious things to have. There are many resources that exist to help families navigate these problems. Kyle Johnson, owner of Care Consultants for the Aging, talked to us about their ElderCare Resource Handbook for families researching their options. The online edition of their Lincoln handbook is available for free and physical editions can be ordered for just a few dollars. “Our mission is to provide the elderly and their adult children with assistance in achieving a continued independent living style,” Kyle noted. “We seek to find and refer caregivers and other professionals that provide support services. To help families walk through each aspect, Care Consultants has designed a free, simple, one-page task sheet to lay out key considerations. These include a handy list of services from medical care, food and nutrition, companionship, and mobility assistance to help families identify their priorities. As a free service, Care Consultants hopes to refer families to professionals who can meet their individual needs,” explained Kyle.
As the average American lifespan has gradually increased over the decades, addressing illnesses caused by old age has become a more important part of family life. For example, families with loved ones experiencing Alzheimer’s or dementia often consider memory care.
“Dementia is a true passion of mine and it affects so many individuals and families in different ways,” Jolee Urbanovsky, Transition Consultant for Bridge to Better Living (BBL), told us. “There have been many stories and journeys I have been blessed to walk alongside. Although dementia is a cruel and evil disease, BBL is here to relieve some of the stress by offering a shoulder to cry on—someone to sit and listen to the concerns, confusion, and frustration families go through on a day to day basis.”
Seniors are often affected more profoundly by an accident than a younger person would be. This means the need for care may arise unexpectedly in later life. “Unfortunately, unexpected and difficult situations or a crisis may happen at any moment’s notice,” noted Jolee. When considering options, Jolee advises families to look for teams who understand the healthcare industry and provide a variety of strengths. “We have an amazing team at Bridge to Better Living and have a combined total of over 140 years of working passionately with seniors and the healthcare industry….The other huge advantage of working with Bridge to Better Living is having us at the family’s or senior’s side every step of the journey. We are not a one-phone-call kind of business. Bridge to Better Living values people,” assured Jolee.
Not only has the average life expectancy for Americans increased, other factors are also affecting the senior care industry. As Karla Frese, co-owner of Home Care Partners of Nebraska pointed out, there will be more people over 65 than under 18 by 2033. “By 2029, all of the Baby Boomers will be 65 and older!” Karla pointed out. “Our role is to take responsibility for our own aging process and realize that aging is not a disease, but instead a process…one to embrace and prepare for.”
As a volunteer instructor partnering with AARP, Karla has given educational seminars titled, “Prepare to Care.” She informed us that because people can now expect to live 20 to 30 years beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, creating a framework for the future has become vital. “Many people wait until a crisis occurs before they talk about their values and preferences, wishes for health care, or details about their finances. It’s never easy to bring up what you think will be an uncomfortable topic. However, a lot of uncertainty can be avoided if you talk with your loved one before a crisis occurs,” Karla said. To avoid burnout, she advises working with a team, assessing the goals and needs of a care giving plan, and delegating responsibilities. “Realize your plans may change,” she added.
When it comes to retirement, it’s important to find a place where you or your loved one can feel comfortable. That is why Carriage Glen’s is proud to have a staff of caring people committed to providing a warm, friendly environment. Carriage Glen, an Essex Community, is designed for those age 55+ who wish to enjoy an independent lifestyle. What does this lifestyle include? At Carriage Glen it includes dining, transportation, a fitness and wellness area, coffee shop, library, and even guest rooms for visitors! Even if an individual decides to move into another living situation on their own, it can still come as a shock. Change is difficult. It will take some time to settle in, but at the right place, it’ll feel like home in no time.
As the owner of the Nebraska Hearing Center in Lincoln, audiologist Dr. Leslie Frank, M.S., CCC-A noted that a common life change she sees in their office is senior adults transitioning from their homes to assisted living. From a hearing perspective, this can be quite a change. Often, when seniors transition to the assisted living centers, dining rooms are busier and noisier than they are accustomed to. Additionally, there are group activities that place different demands on their hearing.
“This is one of the many reasons why we offer no-charge comprehensive hearing evaluations and demonstrations of digital technology,” Leslie stated. “It is important for people to have access to this type of information about their hearing, completed by audiologists. We offer a no pressure approach to hearing healthcare and believe that a baseline hearing evaluation is a great way to start. Just like any other routine medical exam, it is important to obtain baseline hearing information and re-evaluate annually to monitor any changes.”
In the process of moving to a new home or recovering from an injury or illness, many people experience a period of adjustment and relearning things that used to be second nature. It can be easy to forget, while caring for another, to attend to your own needs. As a retirement living advisor for Legacy Retirement Communities, Kayla Schaf recalled the example of her dear friend Debbie. “I first met Debbie when she was helping her parent research retirement options,” Kayla noted. “Debbie was the adult child of aging parents. She was the real example of the sandwich generation. Navigating the responsibilities of being a superhero in caring for her own children, husband, job, and her aging parents. The stress of being a caregiver is real.”
“Debbie and I had a special relationship,” shared Kayla. “We shared over a decade of life together while her parents were at the Legacy. We went through the loss of her dad, the daunting diagnosis of memory loss with her mom, and navigating various life challenges. She had the comfort of knowing that, as her parents aged, they were receiving adequate care, and she also knew she had people in her corner for support—people who really knew her and her parents,” she added.
One aspect of a new living arrangement to consider is environment and social opportunities. The Waterford Communities are locally owned and operated, with two assisted living locations. For Christy Merritt, executive director of their Lincoln facilities, family experiences were an important factor in her choosing assisted living and memory care as her career. “I was blessed with the ability to care for my parents and grandmother,” Christy told us. “Through a combined family effort, they were able to spend their final days at home. Taking care of them was a privilege. After that, I felt a desire to do more and to be a part of something that made a difference. I had a relative already in the industry who gave me great guidance and inspiration. Through her connections and some divine intervention, doors were opened that brought me to The Waterford at Williamsburg.”
When it comes to care for adults with Alzheimer’s and memory issues, Christy encourages families to look for options that offer social engagement to seniors and spaces that are designed to reduce frustrations caused by the disease. For example, their memory care facility includes sensory stimulation activities, personalized one-on-one activities, a tranquility sensory room, a therapeutic whirlpool bath and spa, and an open air patio space with a serene walking path.
When it’s time to seek 24-hour long-term care for your loved one, focus on what matters: care, comfort, and cost. Orchard Park Assisted Living prides itself on being the best at what matters. Don’t settle for an ordinary facility or be pressured into a resort-style locale that pushes irrelevant bells and whistles. Instead, seek out a community that feels like home—familiar, comfortable, and 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 family.
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. The community is nestled off of 48th and Van Dorn, right in the heart of south Lincoln. This makes it easy to visit your loved one during your lunch break or sometime over the weekend if you live on this side of town.
One of the most difficult topics for any family to broach is death, but like accidents and illness, preparation can save a family from additional stress and confusion during a time of grief. As a family service manager for Butherus, Maser & Love Funeral Home, Bryan Block has seen how families must cope with grief and how being prepared can affect their whole situation.
He shared personal experience with us about how death has affected a family close to his own. “A few years back, I had an experience with an older couple from out of town that was very close to my family for years,” Bryan shared. “They had been like second parents to my wife and I since before we were married. As she was experiencing some health challenges, her husband was her caregiver and she was able to remain in her home. Over the 4th of July weekend the children came to town to find their mom wandering aimlessly upstairs, and their father had passed away in a recliner in the basement in front of a baseball game. They had never had any discussion of funeral planning, they had never had any discussion about long-term care. They just assumed Dad would always be the caregiver. So in an instant, they had to make funeral arrangements for Dad, determine what to do with the house and all their lifelong belongings, and find housing and care for their mother. All on a holiday weekend….Please, have these discussions with your family! They may not be easy, but if the caregiver dies first it would be a tremendous help to the survivors if there was a plan in place.”
Procrastinating on preparing for end-of-life can be a costly decision for an entire family. As a funeral director for the historic Wyuka Funeral Home and Cemetery, Joshua Vossler noted that when a family has made no preparations such as purchasing a plot or making pre-arrangements with a funeral home, this makes an at-need service necessary. “For those, we kind of start from scratch, as opposed to something that has been pre-arranged,” Joshua explained. “The difficulty of an at-need service is the family may have to assume what their loved one wanted, even their disposition. They’ll have to ask themselves if their loved one wanted to be cremated or have a traditional service.”
Wykua works closely with local grief counselors, community groups, and institutions who specialize in grief counseling and will often make recommendations during this process. In contrast to at-need, pre-need involves making these plans ahead of time, and Joshua sees two key benefits to this approach. 1) It lets the family know what to expect and what their loved one wanted at the time of passing—pastors, songs, style and location of service. 2) It is more efficient and it can be significantly less costly. “We guarantee our service and offerings at today’s prices, which means that at the time of passing, you can save up to a few thousand dollars depending on the policy,” added Joshua. Nothing can fix the pain of grief, but Joshua believes that making a sensible plan can save a family from additional stress and confusion, allowing them to focus on remembering their loved one.
The importance of preparation is illustrated by the sheer number of considerations end of life involves. According to Jodi Freeman, outreach coordinator for Roper & Sons, “there are up to 150 pieces of information a family needs to know, usually within 72 hours or less, upon the death of a loved one.” Jodi explained to us that preparing for end of life is a very similar process to other kinds of preparations to the future, like retirement. “While many people think of a funeral home being available to assist only at the time of death, in reality, planning ahead saves everyone a lot of time, energy, and resources….Most people in their 40s and 50s are beginning to think about retirement, and many in their 30s are even starting to plan ahead. One big piece of those plans should be to have your funeral arrangements in place, and a plan for pre-paying the expenses.”
Jodi has seen the value of this preparation in her own personal life experience. “My own daughter and I had a conversation about planning ahead for my eventual passing when she was about 18 or 19 and working part time at the funeral home. She witnessed a very difficult situation in which a husband, father, son, and brother had passed away somewhat unexpectedly. There was a lot of bickering among family members about who should plan the service, who knew how this gentleman wanted to be remembered, and how much the family could and would spend on the funeral service. So, my daughter and I sat down later that day and went over my personal funeral plan.” Jodi joked that although she has no plans to die anytime soon, this plan has offered her family clarity and peace of mind. Roper & Sons also hosts free topic breakfasts, which allow the Lincoln community to hear perspectives from local professionals with experience caring for families and seniors.
It is important to emphasize that the elderly are not the only group who can face difficult circumstances, and in fact, younger adults often have the most important financial decisions to make for their future. No matter what happens in life, a proactive approach can help individuals and families better cope with future difficulties. As owner of Branched Oak Insurance, Shane Jensen has counseled families as they seek to financially prepare for uncertainty. “Every scenario is different,” stated Shane. “We would want to work with each individual client to make sure the advice we give them is based on their unique experience. If someone is going through a divorce, we would talk to them about the assets that they have and the steps they would need to take to plan their financial future.”
For example, some accidents can lead to costly medical bills or even lawsuits. “Oftentimes, those are some of the most difficult times people face. Our job as an agent is to offer them advice and important legal counsel,” Shane told us.
In addition to insurance, financial planning is also a way for families and small businesses to prepare for their financial future. “On the financial side, we are always protecting our people so we can help them meet their financial goals,” Shane informed us. “One example would be when we had someone who came in seeking financial planning assistance and we identified an issue in the way their assets were being given to beneficiaries. There were some issues which would have had some severe legal implications. Within 10 minutes, we were able to identify some important adjustments that could have cost millions of dollars.”
While health insurance can help families afford medical bills, these are just one of the expenses that can be added to a family budget thanks to a health issue. As a benefits advisor for Aflac, Kerry Butzke specializes in supplemental insurance intended to help with unforeseen injuries and illnesses. “With Aflac, our goal is to give individuals, businesses, and families peace of mind,” explained Kerry. We are not health insurance. We are supplemental insurance, which pays you cash benefits in the time of an unforeseen injury or illness. You can’t swipe your health insurance card at the gas station, meaning your health insurance doesn’t cover your daily living or give you paycheck protection when you cannot work or are sick and have to drive to appointments and take time off of work for yourself or your loved ones.”
In the American healthcare marketplace, employers tend to be the main provider of health insurance options to their employees. However, individuals with regular health insurance might be able to increase their security just by speaking to their employer. As a specialist in supplemental benefits, Kris Loberg from UNICO offered this advice to employees: “I would first ask your employer if supplemental insurance is available. It might be and they are not aware of it. Sometimes we have employers who will decide to add supplemental products to their benefits package if they realize employees are interested. Also, when an employer understands supplemental benefits can be added at no cost to the company, they are more inclined to add that benefit.”
Because many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, Kris noted that supplemental insurance can be a tremendous blessing to cope with the additional financial costs associated with an accident or illness. “Even with good health insurance and disability benefits insurance, there is are still out of pocket expenses,” she said. Unplanned life events also account for most home foreclosures. “The number one reason for foreclosures is accidents and sickness. What we are trying to focus on is financial well being. It helps someone to sleep at night. For example, my brother was diagnosed with cancer at age 27. It hits very close to home for me as a single mother of two. What would I do if that had been me? If you think of that type of situation, in which you might be out of work and you want to focus on recovery, how do you pay the bills? I have close experience with people who have had these types of life impacting events.”
Unfortunately, there are situations where it can become difficult to recover financially at all. As Executive Director Chris Lamberty revealed, the Lincoln Housing Authority (LHA) currently assists approximately 3,000 households in Lincoln through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. “This includes seniors and individuals who are permanently disabled,” explained Chris, who has worked for over 20 years with LHA to provide affordable housing options. “I’ve learned it’s a real struggle for people in low income brackets to afford housing. There are some people who need some short-term assistance and others, who due to some disability or long-term health problems, need more long-term assistance. One of the biggest challenges is there is not a lot of emergency housing resources. Everything we have has waiting lists,” explains Chris. To address this, the LHS works in close partnership with local organizations and institutions for emergency housing situations, such as assistance for those fleeing domestic abuse.
Understanding the resources available in the local community can help at-risk families develop their financial independence and support their children. “I think something I would like more people to know is beyond our immediate housing services, we also offer some wrap-around services, such as our children’s reading program,” said Chirs.
If someone hasn’t put their effects in order prior to having an accident or illness, a family may have to begin the difficult process of setting a house in order themselves, and may consider self storage. As Rod Berens, co-owner of Store-It-All put it, “Your property can be one of the greatest blessings you pass onto your family, or it can be a headache. If there is an immediate need to move, self-storage is an economical option because it won’t require you to make hundreds of decisions about your various effects right away. We have the boxes and supplies for you, along with on-site security and video surveillance so you can have the peace of mind of knowing your property is safe while you attend to more important matters.”
Whether an accident, an illness, or a sudden death, unforeseen life events can affect the young and the old. Rather than procrastinate on these problems, young people have an opportunity to take proactive steps to prevent being blindsided by unplanned events, and the elderly have an opportunity to be active in making decisions for their livelihoods. Many free resources and services exist to allow families to gather information on the options they have available to them to prepare for the future.