Senior Living in Omaha, NE 2017

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Senior Living in Omaha, NE 2017

Particularly during the winter months and the holiday season, it’s a time of year when it’s important to keep our senior loved ones and even beyond that, our senior neighbors here in our community, in mind. There are many things we can do help brighten a day, meet a need, prepare for what’s to come, and so on.

Caution: Winter Weather Ahead. Freezing rain, extreme cold, and snowstorms; winter weather can be dangerous. While everyone should be aware of the hazards associated with inclement weather, the threat can be especially dire if you’re a senior citizen who may be less mobile in and outside your home, which makes you considerably more at-risk during weather emergencies.

Seniors can be at greater risk for several reasons. One is existing health problems worsening in extreme temperatures. Or, it may be more difficult for them to evacuate or prepare their homes when severe weather threatens. Winter storms care range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, ice, sleet, and freezing rain. Seniors are the most likely to require assistance, can sometimes need monitoring, in the colder months.

Here are a few tips that will help to ensure you’re ready for winter storms and extreme cold:

Prepare Before Storms & Extreme Cold

  • Before winter approaches, add the following supplies to your emergency kit:
    • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways.
    • Sand to improve traction.
    • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
    • Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off.
    • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
  • Make a family communications plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is
  • important to know what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National
  • Weather Service (NWS).
  • Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supply kit in your vehicle.
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather.

Winterize Your Home

  • Extend the life of your fuel supply; insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Clear rain gutters, repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural integrity of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow – or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.

Caution: Stay Mindful of Seasonal Issues. The most serious, yet most treatable, senior health issue this time of year is loneliness. While Americans tend to associate the holidays with togetherness, sharing, joyful occasions and feelings of warmth and happiness, the season can also worsen feelings of loneliness, disappointment, and isolation for some people – especially older adults. Loneliness is not only bad for seniors’ mental health; it can affect their physical wellbeing as well. Current research illustrates the link between loneliness and the advancement of dementia, deterioration of physical health and shortened lifespans. Conversely, multiple studies show feeling connected and happy is good for your health and can lead to a longer lifespan. What’s more, happiness really can be contagious. In fact, one study by researchers at the University of California and Harvard University found surrounding yourself with happy people can make you more likely to become happy yourself. Emotional ties are even more important for seniors.

Joanne Carlberg - Bridge to Better Living

Joanne Carlberg Bridge to Better Living

“As seniors look toward the holidays, they often think of their family traditions changing,” states Joanne Carlberg with Bridge to Better Living. “The realization of families being busy with their own children and perhaps less or no opportunity for everyone to celebrate together, especially when members are far away, can be tough. As such, depression is common during these times. It is important to be active and enjoy holiday celebrations while staying in contact with friends and family. Being socially active combats loneliness and living close to peers is comforting. Seniors who have delayed moving into a senior retirement community suddenly realize the winter weather is just around the corner and worry about transportation, the ability to have healthy meals, and home maintenance. Bridge to Better Living, at no cost, lightens their stress and anxiety by assisting them to find the best community for their needs where they are well cared for, warm and safe. We are able to refer local resources to help downsize and organize for moves.

There is a saying ‘The best gift of all is the presence of family and friends wrapped in love.’ Take time to drop a note, phone call or visit those who are unable for any reason to join in the celebrations. Remember to plan ahead and be certain those you love are enjoying their holidays. Also, it’s advised to plan ahead to find a senior community offering fellowship during the holidays and every day. Living with peers and knowing you are safe and stress-free is a gift in itself. Peace of mind occurs when living with friends who have the same interests and situations as you or your loved one do. As was previously mentioned, Lincoln will be welcoming several new communities in 2018. Bridge to Better Living will be working with all of them and will know what amenities and services they offer. Use a consultant such as those at Bridge to Better Living to find the best community that will allow you to maintain your quality of life.”

Feeling love and compassion is important for seniors to feel every day of the year, but especially during the holiday season.  Memories made during the holiday season last forever, and are important for seniors to continue to experience.

The holidays seem to be overbooked with parties and activities, so it’s important to plan in advance to make that special time happen with your senior loved ones.

“I think the most serious issues that impact the seniors we see in Long Term Care are those of grief and loss,” notes Molly Skidmore with Brookestone Meadows. “Very frequently the holidays are a reminder of the family and friends that have gone before us and are unable to join us as we gather together.  Additionally, seniors are reminded that due to their loss of independence and limited abilities, they often times are not able to be the provider of the holiday festivities as they once were.  Many of our residents were impeccable hosts, fabulous cooks, purchased the most thoughtful gifts or were meticulous decorators or gift wrappers. The holidays are a challenge to find ways to contribute in a meaningful way that is perhaps very different from the past.

Be sure to make time during the holidays for your loved ones that are living in facilities or senior living communities.  Time with family is irreplaceable, particularly during this time of year.  Include any senior you can in your festivities.  Draw on your loved ones’ abilities and talents instead of their inabilities, helping them to be an integral part of the holiday instead of an observer.  Take your loved one to family gatherings if possible–use resources like medical transport companies to have them join in on the fun!  If it isn’t possible to bring your loved ones to your holiday gatherings, bring the gathering to them.”

In agreement with the profound impact volunteers have on the lives of seniors, Skidmore emphasizes, “Volunteers play a vital role in contributing to the quality of life of seniors living in facilities all year long!  They enhance the care provided in these settings by offering additional opportunities for one-on-one interaction.  Good conversation, smiles and laughter are the best medicine regardless of age. We always have volunteer opportunities at Brookestone Meadows.  To get involved, please contact our Life Enrichment department by calling (402) 289-2696. Come with an open mind and open heart! Our seniors will share their lifetime of stories, jokes, wisdom and perspective.”

Indeed, volunteers truly do contribute to the quality of life of seniors during the holiday season. Many seniors do not have family nearby to visit them during the holiday season. Volunteers help provide comfort during the holidays by visiting with seniors, assisting with seasonal events, and even donating items to be gifted. Anything that has to do with offering your time and companionship is always greatly appreciated. Consider adopting a grandparent or elderly neighbor during the winter season; it will bring you just as much enjoyment as it will give the recipient, which is the gift of your time and attention!  Learn about their past–you may find out some amazing stories about them in the way of their former employment, military service, family members, etc.  Help them record their memories as a gift for their family who may live far away, scoop a sidewalk, or bring them a favorite book. Something as simple as taking a Sunday evening drive around town to see the holiday lights is a fun, stress-free activity that could bring a great deal of happiness and holiday cheer to a senior.  In addition, there is a variety of holiday musical performances and religious offerings to keep seniors active and involved throughout the holidays, so you could plan a trip to one of those.

As previously detailed, the cold and dangers of winter can isolate seniors, making simple tasks more difficult. Furthermore, getting out and about in the winter months can be treacherous for anyone, let alone for those who have physical limitations or safety concerns.  Therefore, before deciding to make that trip to the store or medical appointment, seniors need to be sure the route will be free of obstacles like snow banks or icy sidewalks.  Volunteering to clean the drive or sidewalk for a senior is a kind gesture and may allow them to make even simple trips to the mailbox worry free.  Another kind gesture would be offering to assist them with their travel needs, or just stopping by to pass the time.

Kyle Johnson Care Consultants for the Aging - Headshot

Kyle Johnson
Care Consultants for the Aging

Volunteers can play an integral part in a senior’s life,” emphasizes Kyle Johnson with Care Consultants for the Aging. “Stopping by to see them on a regular basis or bringing a gift during the holidays will create a sense of worthiness for that senior. Having a friendly, smiling face come to your home wanting to spend time with you will bring a smile to anyone’s face!

Seniors who stay home alone and don’t get involved in the holidays tend to get depressed because they are lonely. There are also many seniors who live in retirement communities and don’t have family who regularly comes to see them. During the holidays everyone wants to be with their family. We strongly encourage seniors to get out and become active in the winter months to avoid this sense of loneliness. If you can’t get out on your own, be open to letting someone come in and be with during these months to ensure your safety and have a friend to spend the holidays with!”

He also notes, “Everyone who is aging in place at home wants to stay there as long as possible. We want everyone to stay home as long as possible, so give us a call and we will help make sure this is an option for you. Moving is difficult, especially at an older age, so taking the proper steps before a move may have to happen is very important as well. We will assess your current living situation and give you the best advice based on your wishes! We’re just a phone call away, so please take advantage of our services.”

Julie Laughlin-Home Nursing With Heart

Julie Laughlin
Home Nursing With Heart

In agreement, Julie Laughlin with Home Nursing With Heart adds, “So many times we see patients who desperately want to stay in their homes they’ve lived in for 50+ years, at all costs. To that end, an often-overlooked service is in-home care.  For seniors who wish to stay in their homes, a quality companion care company to assist with daily living activities such as dressing, bathing, meal preparation, etc. can be a huge help. Some companies will provide non-medical cares while others are licensed to provide both medical and non-medical cares.

For example, at Home Nursing With Heart, we provide professional staff who go into the homes of our patients to treat various ailments, post-surgical conditions, and provide physical and occupational therapy. Medicare generally covers these visits financially for the patient. We can also evaluate the home environment and make suggestions for modifications so that patients are able to continue to stay in their homes as long as possible.

Since most injuries and falls happen in the bathroom, bathroom modifications/safety equipment may need to be considered as a priority. This can be as simple as grab bars, removing rugs, obtaining a toilet seat riser, etc. At Home Nursing With Heart, we have an occupational therapist conduct a safety evaluation in the home and make specific suggestions to improve safety. This is a service paid for by Medicare. Also, the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging (ENOA) has a handyman service that may be beneficial.

When challenges are identified we work with the patient, their family, and many times a medical social worker to help make the best choices for the patient and ensure they stay safe and happy.”

She continues, “While often aging in place is a possibility with assistance, unfortunately there comes a time when mental or physical challenges are present and it’s not possible. When it’s time depends on the individual so it varies quite a bit. No matter what the case may be, preparing for the latter outcome financially is very important. In addition, the emotional preparation must be addressed also. Over the years family memories have been created, attachments and bonds are forged, and having to let go of this is an emotional challenge.

Regarding the financial obligations involved, have a budget and list the most important services needed. What are the physical, social, and possibly locale needs involved? If staying in an independent living environment when transitioning to a community, does the facility offer progressive cares, medication assistance, hygiene cares, transportation to medical appointments, etc.? Finding this information out ahead of time is important because it may help to avoid having to move again. Also, understanding the specifics with respect to financial obligations, additional charges, and payment details is critical.

There are agencies that exist to help determine which community and/or services would be the best fit. A representative will meet with the senior and his or her family to review and assess various needs, finances, and recommend the facilities that best suit the specific situation. Oftentimes the services provided by these agencies are free to utilize.”

With the onset of winter this month and the fact that we’re already in the midst of the holiday season, keep these things in mind and don’t hesitate to reach out to our local resources if you have questions, need assistance, or would like to offer your time and talents as a volunteer. There is no shortage of things we can do to ensure our loved ones, neighbors, and those in our community are all able to enjoy the happiness the holidays bring safely an in the company of others.