In 2013, the definition of “Golden Years” and how seniors are choosing to spend them has changed dramatically–even from our idea of what that looked like 5-10 years ago. Many seniors are maintaining an active lifestyle well into their 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s, including a regular schedule full of events, appointments and the stuff of day-to-day life. As a society, we are also more focused on how our friends, parents and grandparents can make the most out of every day, and supporting them along the way. Furthermore, there are many professionals committed to providing seniors with plenty of options for necessary services, levels of care, and interaction that places significant value on the quality of their daily lives.
Many seniors find the idea of living in a community setting both exciting and comforting, especially if keeping up with their house has become too much or if they have felt isolated or lonely living at home by themselves. The great part about senior living communities is the diversity and wealth of options available, based upon attending to the specific needs and level of autonomy of each individual. Sennora Washington of Hickory Villa Assisted Living states, “Our community offers active independent seniors a home-like atmosphere while providing individualized care and personal assistance with normal daily activities. We will set out to foster as much autonomy as possible with each resident while providing a strong safety net of support services and supervision. Assistance may include medication management of supervision, personal care services by trained staff, arrangement of medical, dental, or rehabilitation appointments or simple assistance with bathing and dressing. Hickory Villa also provides enriching activities and wellness programs designed to promote senior independence and quality of life. These services minimize the need for relocation by accommodating an individual’s changing care needs and personal preferences. Upon admission, our interdisciplinary care team meets with new residents and their families to develop an individualized care plan and to coordinate the delivery of services and care. Hickory Villa partners with outside agencies to provide occasional support and therapeutic services. She adds, “Hickory Villa offers spacious living within our assisted living rooms, licensed nurse supervision, medication aides and friendly support staff ensure that our residents get attention and care they require 24 hours a day. The community’s unique location in Omaha allows for an abundance of activities that promote a healthy and active lifestyle. We have a gorgeous dining room with restaurant style dining and delicious meal options, we offer scheduled transportation to appointments or social visits, and pets are welcome as well. At Hickory Villa, we are committed to ‘enriching lives through service.’”
Kristina Krumme of Elk Ridge Village points out that they have an excellent, and very popular, activity schedule and wellness calendar full of events that give their residents the opportunity to stay fit and keep active. She states, “The social calendar at Elk Ridge Village offers a wide variety of different activities each day. Activities range from onsite entertainment, happy hour, cards, informational presentations, Men’s coffee, Girls Nights Out, book clubs, bible studies and much more! Residents develop many friendships and look forward to participating in these daily activities. Also some residents join a committee or club at Elk Ridge Village to regain being involved in the community as maybe they once did before. Dining is important to our residents and our staff as well. Preparing healthy, delectable meal selections is our top priority! Residents have many choices when it comes to their meal planning and can choose from a fresh assortment of salads, fruits, entrees, vegetables and tasty desserts. All meals are specially prepared in our commercial grade kitchen by our trained, experienced chefs and are served in a restaurant-style dining setting.” She adds, “We also have a wonderful, full time Methodist Registered Nurse onsite who offers a great exercise program three days a week. This program is specifically designed for seniors and their needs. Residents that participate in these wellness programs gain more strength and mobility, and the added health benefits of maintaining a higher activity level. We believe that with a combination of a well-balanced meal, exercise, socialization and the burdens of home ownership left behind, residents really do love the way they live at Elk Ridge Village.”
According to Roxann Rogers-Meyer of Immanuel Communities, “Planning for the future is the most important factor to aging successfully. It is important for families to initiate the conversation on how to move forward when considering a move to a senior living community. At Immanuel communities, we encourage families to begin the conversation when the senior is in good health. It is difficult to plan when there is declining health or a crisis of some kind. The earlier you explore your senior housing options, the more choices and control you will have over your future. The conversations regarding a move to a retirement community are difficult but important. Too often we hear, ‘I wish I had made the decision sooner.’” Immanuel communities offer independent and assisted living and memory support featuring a secure and maintenance free lifestyle for today’s senior. Roxann adds, “There is a lot of living to be done at Immanuel communities, from dynamic social gatherings to lifelong learning classes and seminars, from trips to the museum to nearby shopping and Symphony performances, our residents can quickly fill up their calendars. The Immanuel Explorers have a passion for travel and adventure and they have taken an Alaskan Cruise and an excursion to Branson, Missouri. The Immanuel Speakers Series has featured Apollo 13 astronaut, Captain Jim Lovell, as well as Dick Cavett and Peggy Fleming.”
As far as communication goes, while we generally don’t like to talk about end-of-life issues, it is something that should be done and can be approached in many ways. Mindy Crouch of Pando Geriatrics says, “It is best to talk to your family members about their wishes and wants before a crisis arises. Not many people really desire moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home, and family members typically struggle when you put someone on hospice. However if you know their wishes ahead of time, it makes the decisions easier. As people get older, they need to consider the fact that someday they might have to go into a care facility, even though they would like to stay at home, but you should always discuss many options because you don’t know what life is going to throw you. At Pando Geriatrics, we offer mental health services to the geriatric population. We can offer our services in a nursing home, assisted living, retirement community, in their home or we certainly welcome patients and family members to our office. Our services are covered by most insurance policies and you do not need a doctor’s order to participate. When a person is feeling depressed, anxious, grieving or experiencing any life conflicts, they only need to call us and make an appointment and it is very simple to get started. We stress that utilizing our services does not mean that you are crazy or suicidal; all it means is that you need someone objective to talk with and to help you through that particular situation. There are a lot of life changes for a family and person as they get older and extra support can definitely be helpful.”
As we age, we strive to maintain our dignity and sense of pride in ourselves and our environment. Everyone wants to be able to know they can do it on their own. Vascular Access Plus works with hospitals, home health care agencies and physicians so the senior can get the PICC line or peripheral IV placed as soon as possible, in order to start the therapy and get them home as soon as possible. Since Vascular Access Plus is a mobile company, they can come to you! Jamie Hamm, RN, BSN, VA-BC and CEO of Vascular Access Plus+ says, “Our main goal is to get the IV device placed and get the individual back into their home environment, in order to facilitate their own IV therapy or to have home health care administer the IV therapy. You no longer have to stay in the hospital just to get IV medications, and there are so many benefits to being in a home atmosphere during recovery. Vascular Access Plus offers our services for seniors 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and probably 80% of our work is completed on seniors. Our team is called on by hospitals, nursing homes, physician’s offices, Home Health Care, and infusion clinics to perform vascular access placement for the sole purpose of eliminating a delay in therapy. As we all get older we don’t have the veins in our arms like we used to; they just aren’t as strong. Since an older person’s veins are more fragile the nurses will have to poke them several times to try and get an IV or to even draw blood. Vascular Access Plus educates nurses and facilities that once the patient has been stuck three times unsuccessfully you should call a Vascular Access Specialist. All of our nurses are trained specifically for ultrasound guidance that provides a huge comfort to the patient, so we are not ‘fishing’ around for a vein. Vascular Access Plus increases the comfort and satisfaction for seniors while providing them with the additional education regarding their vascular access needs that will be vital as they move forward with their health care.”
As with many other factors associated with the aging process, hearing loss is unfortunately a part of getting older for most adults. When hearing loss occurs, it is often a very subtle process. Seniors often are not aware of hearing loss until they find themselves feeling very isolated. With challenged hearing, seniors often will withdraw from social situations or will find themselves misunderstanding situations and becoming upset. The wellbeing of seniors is further reduced when they find it challenging to hear medical diagnoses and treatment plans. Therefore, hearing loss can have very significant effects on the social, physical and emotional wellbeing of seniors. ENT Specialists recommends that regardless of age, any person with hearing concerns should schedule an appointment with a board-certified audiologist. Audiologists are educated on the medical aspects of hearing and hearing loss as well as on auditory testing and diagnosis. During the hearing consultation, the audiologist should look at all aspects of how hearing is affecting a variety of lifestyle situations. ENT Specialists, PC, provides hearing aid products from ReSound and Starkey manufacturers. Ken Stallons, board-certified audiologist at ENT Specialists, places an emphasis on using manufacturers that not only provide quality products, but also provide the customer service needed to support their products. ENT Specialists employs three board certified audiologists, and Ken Stallons oversees the hearing aid division. Ken has been working in the hearing healthcare field since 1984, and takes pride in helping each individual improve their hearing situation in order to be able to enjoy their surroundings and maintain their lifestyle. Ken also strives to be the best in service for his patients, which includes being accommodating in scheduling appointments, offering walk-in services, and following up to fine-tune hearing aids. The initial hearing consultation is often two hours in length so that he may fully explain each step in the process. If a hearing aid is determined to be the best solution for a person’s lifestyle, Ken offers free adjustments. He finds importance in even minor adjustments because the goal is to have the best hearing possible. Sometimes a hearing aid isn’t needed, but instead, an accessory may be a viable option to correct the hearing challenges. Additionally, sometimes patients struggle with tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and Ken has products that have shown success in masking tinnitus. Alternatives to hearing aids may be offered to solve specific lifestyle demands when a person is not at the stage of needing a hearing aid. If a hearing aid is suggested, ask about hearing aid adjustments because they should always be included in the package as it is likely that there will be many more down the road. Ken advises to choose a product that will last a long time, that is flexible to solve all your lifestyle situations and that will be the least amount of hassle for you as you will be using it regularly. Additionally, he recommends a friend or family member attends the initial hearing consultation appointment for support and to join in the dialogue.”
While there are many options for services that accommodate all ages and personal situations, Hillcrest Health Services offers more services for aging adults than any other provider in the Omaha region. According to Jim Janicki of Hillcrest Health Services, “Hillcrest essentially offers ‘one-stop shopping’ for seniors as they age, and that’s unique to the region. Our organization takes a full continuum of care approach, with the idea of moving seniors seamlessly through the health system as their needs change. Currently, Hillcrest offers independent and assisted living communities, memory support residences, skilled nursing cottages, post-acute rehabilitation, outpatient therapy, skilled home health care, private in-home care, hospice and palliative care, adult day services and a wellness program for seniors.” Hillcrest is also currently building The Grand Lodge at Hillcrest Country Estates in Papillion, which is scheduled to open in late 2014. The amenities and programs will focus on keeping seniors healthy and independent, including an indoor heated saltwater pool and spa, fitness gym, exercise classroom, lecture hall for Lifelong Learning classes by local professors, creative arts studio, woodworking shop, outdoor gardens and more. Janicki adds, “When asked, I always recommend that seniors enjoy their retirement years by focusing on what they love and what’s important. Spend time with family. Love and support your grandchildren. Exercise. Take up new hobbies. See new places. And above all, never stop learning and growing. Exercising your mind is the best way to defend against dementia-related disorders. At Hillcrest, we want our residents to be as active as possible to help them age gracefully and ensure their independence as long as possible.”
Another essential aspect of planning for seniors, aside from living and funeral arrangements, is estate planning. The combination of LifePlan Nebraska and Dorwart Law serves to provide full estate planning services for people of all ages, whether the family wants a Will-based plan or a Trust-based plan. Charles Dorwart of LifePlan Nebraska explains, “The primary difference between the two types of planning is that the Trust-based plan will avoid probate court and the Will-based plan will end up in probate court. Our focus overall is to educate each family sufficiently so that some type of estate plan is put in place. It is imperative that all estate plans include powers of attorney documents for medical care and financial issues so that a loved one can handle those affairs in the event that the planning individual becomes incapacitated. The whole process is exponentially more complex and difficult without the powers of attorney documents. If a husband and wife do not have powers of attorney documents naming each other as their power of attorney, when one of them becomes incapacitated the other spouse has to be appointed as a guardian and conservator for the incapacitated spouse. It can be a long, complex court process for the appointment of the guardian and conservator.” Dorwart agrees that seniors should consider the several types of planning when they are still able to do so for themselves, including:
1. Estate planning, whether it is Will-based or Trust based, including the powers of attorney documents.
2. Funeral planning that covers all necessary details in a comprehensive manner. This includes purchase of the cemetery plots, the markers, the vault (unless they choose cremation), and the funeral services–even including the prayers, songs, ministers and family members they want involved in the services. The more they can plan the easier it is for the family members to get through the grieving process with the loss of a loved one.
3. Provide the information as to life insurance benefits, assets, and debts for the family so they know what to look for when Mom and/or Dad are gone.
4. Have a plan in place if possible for long term care. Find out where to obtain information as to assisted living, nursing home care and hospice care before something happens so there is a plan in place.
With respect to living a full and happy life all the way from beginning to end, planning for necessary aspects of life, declining health, and unfortunately but imminently, our death is crucial. This not only alleviates stress or mishaps by providing your own personal plan of action with attention to your individual needs and desires, but planning ahead also takes care of important aspects that come with aging so you can get out and make the most of daily life and your family and friends can do the same. We encourage you to get busy planning, so you can spend most of your time living!