Senior Care in Omaha, NE – 2018
Senior Care During the Holidays and Winter Months
At Strictly Business, we feel this time of the year is the most important time to talk about senior care. The cold weather has a big impact on their physical health and safety, while the holidays can take a significant toll on their emotional well-being. For most of us, the holidays are a joyful occasion and these months are filled with celebration, reunions, and lots of laughter. However, for the seniors in our community, this time of year can be an incredibly painful, lonely time.
Our goal is to encourage you to not only consider the senior loved ones in your family who may be going through a difficult time, but your elderly neighbors as well—your kindness, thoughtfulness, and assistance can be the best gift you give this holiday season. As for our senior readers, we hope to offer guidance as you navigate through these cold, busy months.
We’ve talked with local professionals in the senior health care community about this topic, and they’ve given us a lot to think about. There are safety precautions to take, activities to try, important conversations to have, and of course, there are precious memories to be made!
Seasonal Safety Tips
Cold and unpredictable weather during the winter season may bring safety challenges for seniors. Every year, winter weather is blamed for accidents and injuries for vulnerable older adults. Planning is the key to seasonal safety.
Here are some seasonal safety tips from Robbie Nathan with Bridge to Better Living:
The following are tips for seniors to prepare for the winter months ahead.
Preparing Your Home—Preparation for winter starts at home. Storms may cause power outages and you may be stranded without heat or food. The following are recommendations to remain safe and comfortable in case of a winter storm.
- Stock up on batteries for flashlights. Keep a flashlight by your bed and in the main living area of your home.
- Make sure extra blankets are easily accessible.
- Have added food and drinking water. Remember when purchasing food supplies you will not have a microwave or oven to warm your meals.
- Always keep your medications filled with at least a week’s worth of doses. Prescriptions may be unable to be filled during a storm.
Bundling Up Before Going Outside—Hypothermia is a serious threat for seniors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the elderly compose over half of all hypothermia deaths each year. When severe winter weather hits it is always best to stay indoors. If you must go out make sure you are dressed appropriately. Cover extremities as much of your body temperature is lost through your head, hands, and feet. Go for the layered look in order to be warm and comfortable.
Preventing Slipping or Falling Injuries—Older adults are more likely to have a serious injury when slipping on ice or snow. Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries for the elderly with an estimated one of three seniors 65 years or older fall every year. Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the E.R. for a fall.
Staying Healthy—Beyond the safety precautions for your home and vehicle, you also want to keep yourself healthy. Cold weather affects your immune system making you more vulnerable to the many cold and flu bugs hitting hardest in the winter. A head cold, fever or other viruses may cause weakness, dizziness and balance issues contributing to falls and other safety issues. Visit your doctor to have a flu vaccination.
Staying Active and Engaged
The winter season is beautiful when staying safe and warm, but what can hurt more than slipping on the ice is experiencing isolation. Keeping seniors active and engaged was a common piece of advice we heard from local industry experts.
Linda Vogt-Sieh, life enrichment coordinator at Brookestone Meadows, shared some insight for families and caregivers who want to ensure their senior loved ones are not overlooked during the holidays:
“With less daylight and freezing/inclement weather, it makes it more challenging for seniors to get out of the house. Lonely seniors who experience social isolation are more prone to engage in unhealthy behaviors, which is linked to poor health, depression, increased fall risk, and even mortality.
Feelings of loneliness or perceived loneliness can also affect both physical and mental health leading to cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia. It is important to maintain an active lifestyle, especially during our coldest months.
You can help your family members enjoy the holiday by assisting with mailing out their holiday cards, wrapping gifts together, singing Christmas carols, decorating a gingerbread house or going through photographs and reminiscing about past holidays.
In addition to including loved ones in your own family gatherings, see if their friends are getting together and you can facilitate them joining their gathering. There are many wonderful companies that can provide companion services to keep your loved one engaged. Check with local churches and the Salvation Army to see what resources they have available.
If transportation is the concern, The Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging has transportation services available. In Papillion, NE, the Papillion Bus Service provides transportation to seniors.
Within any community, there are many opportunities to enjoy the holidays. At Brookestone Meadows, we love to get the residents out to enjoy live nativity scenes, city ‘wonderlands’ that are lit up and home light tours (some are synched to music!). We also host a holiday boutique, bake cookies, make ornaments, and have a Christmas party with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
If it has been a while since you have visited your loved one, sometimes people can be surprised with changes that may have occurred since their last visit. If there is not an immediate safety issue, don’t confront or argue with your loved one about concerns you have. Make some notes to discuss at another time. Your good intentions may not be well received, and you will put your visit in jeopardy. If dementia is a concern, contact the Alzheimer’s Association for additional resources and support.”
“The holidays are a time filled with family and celebration, but for some seniors, the holidays and cold weather can be filled with more challenges than joys,” Jennifer Knecht with Immanuel confirms.
“Supporting aging loved ones can be tricky during the holidays when schedules are busy and to-do lists are long, but it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Talk to your loved ones about their concerns during the holiday season. Maybe they’re reminiscent of loved ones lost or perhaps they’re worried about getting around in the cold weather. Share your concerns as well; it will give you a starting point for having conversations about resources that may be needed. Maybe it’s extra transportation to family get-togethers or getting mom or dad involved in community activities.
The benefit of retirement and senior living communities is they provide all the socialization, pastoral support, and activities during the holidays that many seniors living alone lack. At Immanuel communities, our dedicated life enrichment, wellness, and pastoral support team members work to create exceptional experiences as well as health and spiritual support for residents not only during the holidays but year-round.
The holiday season is a time where many family members begin to notice their aging loved ones may need more help. There are perhaps fewer decorations up than there used to be, holiday traditions may be skipped, or you notice a quietness or even sadness in mom or dad. Talk to your loved ones about the changes you notice and listen to their struggles. If the conversation is difficult, or you don’t know where to start, reach out to the professionals.
Immanuel’s senior living consultants, available at all 12 of our senior living communities, are the experts and have helped thousands of families make the conversation easier. As a not-for-profit organization, it’s our mission to help you find the answers.
Give Immanuel a call or go to our website for family resources you can use this holiday season.”
Senior Living Options
There are many types of senior communities available in Omaha—independent living, assisted living, skilled care, rehab, memory care community. It’s important to educate yourself on the different offerings. Learn the differences between them and know what a loved one needs in the way of care.
“So many times we see patients who desperately want to stay in their homes they’ve lived in for 50+ years,” Jim Laughlin with Home Nursing With Heart admits.
“To that end, an often-overlooked service is in-home care. Respite for family caregivers during the holidays is critical to ensuring the health and happiness of all during a time that’s already packed full of things to do. While you may just need help with non-medical services, it’s nice to have someone around who can provide medical care and support as well.
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.”
“Many seniors find it helpful to have a caregiver assist them in their home with tasks such as bathing, dressing, and laundry to keep them safe and healthy without taking away their independence,” adds Kyle Johnson with Care Consultants for the Aging. “Having a caregiver they know in the home can make life changes less stressful.
Declining eyesight or hearing, mobility problems, and memory issues can lead to losing the ability to drive, increased risk of falling, and everyday tasks becoming more difficult to perform. These health concerns are even more important to take into consideration during the winter.
It is important for seniors to address these issues early on and for families to keep aware of how they are affecting their loved ones. Making sure seniors have mental stimulation, companionship, transportation for outings, and assistance with personal care or household chores can help keep these issues under control. This can come from family members or loved ones, outside caregivers, senior centers, adult day centers, or in a facility.
Care Consultants refers caregivers who are CNAs and can assist seniors with companionship, personal cares, light housekeeping, and much more. We have caregivers available from one up to 24 hours a day, along with access to short-term assistance in the case of an emergency. This flexibility gives families the peace of mind knowing their loved one is being cared for by a qualified and caring individual.”
Advice for Caregivers
It’s easy to get stretched thin at this festive time of year. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, children’s school events, office parties, family gatherings, and travel can make the holidays fairly frenetic, especially if you are a caregiver for a senior loved one on top of all of that. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make the holidays perfect, just do what you can to make sure your senior is safe and healthy.
“First, you can include your loved one in your plans,” says Sabra Mackey with Douglas County Health Center. “Keep in mind that the person may need some special accommodations. Plan your event at a location with few barriers. Driveways, stairs, bathrooms, and seating should be accessible to the individual and comfortable. The individual may tire after a few hours, so make sure they are available for the main meal or activity and have transportation available when they are ready to go home. If your event lasts all day, have a place where they can rest if they want to. Make sure to pack leftovers for them for meals later.
If your loved one is out of town and alone, you can call on their friends or social groups to check on them or you can call or text daily to check in. There are also several agencies that provide companion services at a low cost.
At Douglas County Health Center, we have many in-house volunteers that visit our clients weekly. They also make sure they get to church services and activities that are on our campus. We provide community outings and volunteers help provide companionship and assistance while we are out. At Christmas time, we have many volunteer ‘elves’ who shop for and provide a Christmas gift to our residents.
Our most popular group activities are competitive games such as Bingo, Keno, and music based activities. It is important to remember that each individual has their preferences as far as participation level, interests, or need for support. Keep the person’s dignity by offering assistance, but allowing them to do as much as possible for themselves. Allow them the dignity of choice in their leisure activities. Don’t force anyone to do something they may not want to do.”
“Everyone who has a loved one staying alone at home should seriously consider a medical alert system for them,” advises Dan Ward with MediGuard USA. “The accessories at MediGuard can provide you with 24/7 peace of mind. Fall detection, water overflows, and medication monitors are just some of the innovative ways you can really invest in protecting your senior loved one. Now with some very cool-looking mobile pendants and features like family GPS, text notifications, and talking pendants, these devices are not only precautionary, they are a fashionable life choice. These devices can be wrapped as gifts and put under the tree!”
In conclusion, we encourage you to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to take care of yourself and/or the senior in your life. Keep safety in mind with the winter weather, stay active and engaged to keep spirits bright, and don’t take a single moment for granted. Happy holidays to all the seniors and caregivers in the Omaha community!