Unplanned Life Changes in Omaha, NE 2017
“Stuff happens.” This is the G-rated version of a term we’re all familiar with; such is life, indeed. Although there are many things that are impossible to predict with certainty, there are ways to be prepared for just about anything that may unexpectedly arise along the way. Across the spectrum of unplanned life circumstances – health issues, accidents, divorce, death, etc. – there are professionals who are ready and willing to help you with getting everything in place, too.
Preparing For What Lies Ahead
“Expect the worst, hope for the best.” Just as the saying goes, it’s smart to be proactive in addressing the expected and unexpected alike – the good, the bad, and the ugly. More often than not, accomplishing that is simpler than it seems.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t run the risk of experiencing a health issue, whether injury or illness, that presents with little-to-no warning. For the normal run-of-the-mill cold or flu bug, most know the steps they would take to address the issue – contact the primary physician’s office, go in for a visit, and follow doctor’s orders. That’s the plan in place, even while the thing that’s being planned for remains completely hypothetical.
Since there are a substantial number of possibilities out there that could strike at any time, it can seem overwhelming to devise a plan to address all of the potential ‘what-ifs.’ Yet, just as in the example provided, most of the preparation simply lies in being educated so that when it’s time to react, you know exactly what’s next.
As it applies to seniors, this approach is quite fitting. “At Immanuel, we serve seniors, and very often we are helping someone whose spouse or parent has recently experienced an unexpected illness or something that’s caused a rapid decline in health,” says Connie Chisholm of Immanuel. “As a result, many find themselves in a position where they need to find a community that can provide additional care and services immediately. This can be one of the hardest unplanned life changes one can have. We are here to be a resource and help navigate senior living, care, and services.
When faced with an immediate move to a senior living community, individuals are often met with a whole host of emotions and stressors. They may have to downsize a larger home to move into a smaller, more manageable location. The thought of having to part with cherished items that hold significant memories is daunting. Enlisting the help of a moving company specialized in the needs of seniors can be very helpful. Such organizations are expert in sorting, packing, and moving precious belongings. Another added stressor can be family dynamics if some members are more supportive than others.
While difficult to imagine, we all have to face unexpected life events at some point. But, when you are a senior or an adult child of an aging parent, the impact tends to be more severe in nature. We often hear from our residents and families that they wish they would have made the move sooner. My recommendation is to begin envisioning what your lifestyle looks like in your senior years, prior to retirement and well before an immediate health crisis. Being proactive allows the time to look for a community that suits the individual versus fitting the person into the community.”
An unplanned life change is just that, something that unexpectedly happens to you or your family. This change can be a difficult one (or it can be something that is good!). Good, bad, or neutral, often the challenge lies in deciding what the next step should be, or how one should handle the change that just happened. In truth, knowing what the right thing to do as a result of change can be difficult for anyone, not just the elderly. These folks, however, are more prone to the onset of health issues that impact their overall wellness, living arrangements, and independence being the unplanned life changes that occur.
“So, what happens next?” This is a question that will come up frequently at different times during a person’s life when faced with something that was unexpected to a certain degree.
“In emergency situations, I often find that seniors and their families truly have no idea which way to turn, what to ask, or where to start,” says Theron Ahlman of CarePatrol of Nebraska. “Many are also facing major issues as a result of the incident, such as selling a house, getting insurance policies handled, and putting legal documents in place. We have a list of vetted companies that we recommend to help the families navigate those issues, and have found that this makes the situation much easier. Since we’ve done most of the legwork, it allows people to move forward quickly and confidently.
At CarePatrol we help a lot of seniors and families who have experienced a fall or some type of medical issue and then aren’t able to go back home. This can be a very challenging time, and even more so if they weren’t prepared to transition to a community and have no idea where to start. Typically people can recall a few names of local communities, perhaps they’ve driven by on their way to work or have heard them in conversation, or are given an exhaustive list based on the area they live. Neither really helps much with isolating the communities that would best fit their wants and needs from the bunch. Our process helps to ensure all items of importance are taken into consideration. We meet with the senior and their family to learn their wants, needs, finances and personality. We then find the best matches based on that care discovery, followed by reviewing the state’s care and violation history to make sure it’s a safe community, and one that’s able to meet their needs. Next, we schedule the tours, personally escorting whoever would like to attend. This allows us to help them ask the right questions and look past the fancy chandeliers and grand pianos to truly understand the care they will receive. Furthermore, we stay in contact with the senior and the family after moving in to make sure they are happy and that everything is being done for them as promised.
For those being discharged shortly or in emergency situations, there’s a need to act quickly. We also know which communities work in a timely fashion to get a senior moved in and can make it happen that day, whereas some communities can take a week or more to get everything handled, which wouldn’t work in these particular instances.
While the reason for the move may have come as a surprise, we want to take any other unexpected issues out of the equation. For instance, once you get your loved one all settled in, what happens if they are in a wheelchair and need help getting back and forth from their room, but the staff at that facility isn’t authorized to do so? Or similarly, what if transitioning to a higher level of care as it’s needed isn’t a possibility within the community you’ve chosen? In either case, another move will be necessary, and you’re right back where you started in the first place.
I always suggest to seniors that it’s never too early for us to go out and tour communities. It costs nothing for us to go check them out together. Of course, a change in health condition may alter the decision to go with the community that they previously liked, but it may also help them choose to make the move sooner and in doing so, avoid a fall or injury. Many people wait too long while living in an unsafe situation, or at the point where they aren’t taking medication’s as directed or getting the proper nutrition. To look at a community and get the process going before something happens or to be prepared, call CarePatrol anytime at (402) 785-2262 to speak with a Certified Senior Advisor who will walk with you hand in hand through the challenging process at absolutely no cost to you or your loved one.”
As previously mentioned, a move may be required as a result of an unexpected life event. Particularly in the case of seniors, moving to a new residence is a part of aging that’s almost a given, but the circumstances leading up to that which will determine the timing of said move tend to be a bit more unpredictable in nature.
“People who don’t anticipate the need for a senior living community may find themselves with little time and few options when faced with an unexpected move,” notes Erin Endress of Remington Heights Senior Living Community. “When suddenly faced with an illness, chronic condition, or injury, ongoing assistance or care may be needed as a result. When an unplanned move to assisted living with very little time to make arrangements is required, we offer short-term respite care. Respite residents receive our highest level of care and benefit from all the amenities offered to our permanent residents.
Remington Heights offers independent and assisted living, and amenities that allow individuals to be as independent as possible while receiving the care they need. We invite seniors and their families to tour our community and participate in our events. By exploring options early on, individuals have a better idea of where to turn when faced with an unexpected need.
Often, the family will make the decision on their loved one’s behalf, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, take the initiative to do your research early, and explore the options together. Seniors who visit communities and ask lots of questions may feel more comfortable making a decision to move to a community when the need arises. Participate in activities, talk to current residents, and eat meals at the communities to find a good fit.”
For seniors, a move from their house to independent or assisted living will require downsizing, which can be difficult. For others, there may be specific challenges associated with the move depending on the reason. Working with experienced professionals during a move, you’ll also benefit from guidance as to logistics and their ability to mobilize quickly to accommodate the constraints you’re under.
“Both planned and unplanned life changes are a regular occurrence for us,” advises Brian Beadle of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®. “Job offers, divorces, deaths – these are all extremely stressful life-changing situations that we navigate with our clients on a daily basis. Often on moving day, or the situations surrounding moving day, customers are facing the most emotionally impactful events of their lives. These are not to be taken lightly, good or bad. Our job is about so much more than just moving furniture. We move people forward, and these individuals are parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, cousins, friends.
Our movers are trained to take a step back and assess the situation even before the job begins, so that they’ll be fully prepared when the time comes.
Most people hold a fairly intense emotional connection to their belongings. A child’s favorite doll, an antique grandfather clock, or that perfectly broken in recliner; combine this with the stress of moving and you have a very tumultuous situation. In these instances, it is the details that matter. Those we serve need to know that we will protect their belongings as if they were our own, and that requires building trust so they know they have nothing to worry about.
While there is very little a person can do to prepare for an unplanned move, we are always available to assist, even last-minute. You can expect to receive the same incredible service whether booking a month out or an hour out. We are a full-service company, offering complete packing and unpacking services as well as long-distance moving and storage.
Within the moving spectrum, rest assured there is nothing we cannot do.”
Speaking of those who may find themselves embarking down a new career path for whatever reason, Karla Keegan with Manpower provides a few helpful tips. “There are three ways to prepare for a job search that I’d recommend, and they are as follows:
- Get organized. Job hunting can be stressful. Stay in control by getting all of your materials and information in order in advance. This includes your updated resume, documentation (such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and dates of employment) and interview attire. Create your daily schedule of job search items and keep track of everything in an activity log.
- Know who you are and what you want. The better you know yourself and what you want, the more effective your job search will be. First, implement a “skills inventory” – determine what transferrable skills you have that could be applied to a new role. Next, ask yourself the following questions: Do I want to work full- or part-time? What type of work excites and motivates me? Which shift do I want to work? How far am I willing to travel for work? What kind of work environment do I prefer? How much do I want to earn?
- Make a career plan. Map out the career path you want to follow, then assess what you need to do to prepare for that career. Explore different kinds of jobs to see what occupations fit your interests and skills. You will also see what types of jobs are in demand in your area.
For more career resources, visit the Manpower Career Resource Center on our website, www.manpower.com.”
Having The Tough Conversations
When establishing a solid plan for what’s to come in life, and in preparing for the difficulties that one might face, it is imperative is to have a conversation with your loved ones to get on the same page.
“The list of topics to cover for unplanned life changes is considerable,” says Jim Laughlin of Home Nursing With Heart. “Nonetheless, when factors present themselves that compromise a person’s independence, there are life-changing decisions that will need to be made. Can that individual safely remain in his/her home? Are they going to need help? If so, from whom? Caregivers, family? Should the move to an assisted living facility be considered? My suggestion is to always be having conversations about ‘What if?’ ahead of time.
Another main objective to accomplish in these conversations is ensuring a living will is completed. The word ‘unplanned’ says it all. Furthermore, an often overlooked area is outlining what community resources are available. The variety with respect to all of the different types of assistive services that are available in our community comes as quite the surprise to most. The more you’re able to cover in these conversations, the better prepared you’ll be when the time comes to cross that bridge. Just remember, if you’re in a position where you have to make these decisions, there’s a lot of help available in our community. Reach out and involve others in the conversation too.”
“Open dialogue about the different types of services available, as well as the facilities in the area and what they provide, is a very important but often difficult step to take,” agrees Lisa Arp of SilverRidge Assisted Living & Memory Support in Gretna. “We know it is hard to bring up to our loved ones, but it is necessary. On my radio show ‘Aging Matters with Lisa’ I discuss all of these options for seniors to try to keep them informed on what is out there for them. It airs Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. on 660 AM KCRO. Facilities are not like they used to be; independence is still achievable and you can still do many of the things that you are used to. Especially regarding family members, if you think your loved is close to making such a move, for their safety it is really important to create open dialogue, visit multiple facilities and compile information about various options, so you are well informed on what is out there when the time comes when action is required.”
Dealing With Loss
Loss is a part of life that we’ll all experience at some point. The one that comes to mind first is the passing of a loved one, but there are a number of others that also have a profound impact, such as loss of limb or senses, loss of memory or loss of independence as one ages, loss of hair from chemo, and so on. In any of these instances, though moving forward has its distinct difficulties, you can be sure that support for anything you’ll encounter is out there.
“Adjusting to the losses associated with catastrophic injuries/illnesses can be extremely difficult for patients/families,” expresses Tracy Broussard, LCSW, ACM-SW of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals. “We advocate for patients/families in times of crisis and vulnerability to ensure as much independence is restored or maintained as possible. Our interdisciplinary team supports our patients/families throughout this grieving process by validating concerns, utilizing the strengths of the patients/families, anticipating needs and offering creative solutions to any barriers that exist. They use collective clinical expertise to guide our patients/families to attain what may have originally been thought to be impossible, and are also very knowledgeable about resources and supportive services that are available. At Madonna, we all work together to promote hope via medical and rehabilitative interventions that help our patients/families recognize that they can improve and experience high-quality lives despite these unplanned life changes.
Any of us could experience a medical crisis that would leave us too ill to make our own healthcare decisions. As such, it’s of the utmost importance to let our loved ones and medical providers know what care we would want if we were faced with a medical crisis while we are able to clearly state our wishes. Having these conversations is a great start. However, our requests may not be followed if we have not shared them in writing in the form of Advance Directives. Many healthcare organizations offer Advance Directive resources free of charge. Legal Aid of Nebraska, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services State Unit on Aging, the Nebraska Area Agencies on Aging, and local attorneys are all great resources for Advance Directives.”
With decline in health comes a loss of independence, which can be a challenge to cope with in and of itself.
“It is difficult for almost anyone to feel like they are giving up their independence,” says Melissa Smith of Care Consultants for the Aging. “Accepting help is not easy, especially when people find themselves in emergency situations. Actually, many seniors find it helpful to have a caregiver assist them in their homes with little tasks before an unplanned life change occurs. This way if an emergency situation does come up, they are already accustomed to having a caregiver they know in the home, and it can make that change a little less stressful.
That being said, people usually turn to Care Consultants when an event occurs in their life that changes their ability to live unassisted. This can be a gradual change in which they begin to need assistance with meals, light housekeeping, and personal cares in order to stay in their homes. It can also be a more sudden change, such as a fall or a hospital stay, and all of sudden they find themselves needing more care. Care Consultants refers caregivers who are CNA’s and can assist clients from companionship to personal cares to hospice assistance. We have caregivers available from 1 up to 24 hours a day and on an ongoing, consistent basis or for short-term assistance in an emergency.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is always beneficial to decide what kind of care you may want and to communicate your wishes to your loved ones before a crisis occurs. Get your legal matters in order and determine who will be helping you make medical and financial decisions. It is also important to research home care and facilities to decide how you would like to spend your time if you come to a point where you need assistance with your daily routine.
Care Consultants produces the ElderCare Resource Handbook, a complete listing of services for seniors in the Omaha/Council Bluffs and Lincoln areas. Divided into five tabbed sections including “Government, Financial & Legal”, “Medical Support”, “Home Health Care & Support Services”, “Living Options” and “Senior Services,” the Handbook is a go-to resource for seniors and professionals in the community. The ElderCare Resource Handbook can be purchased for $8 or $12 with shipping. Call (402) 398-1848 in Omaha or (402) 488-3771 in Lincoln to get your copy or go online at www.careconsultants.com to view the Handbook for free.”
Indeed, the loss of something that has previously defined one’s identity can be a crushing blow, but with the power of a positive outlook and a little help from those with whom you choose to surround yourself, one that you can bounce back from in time.
“For those who have lost their hair, it can be difficult to look in the mirror and see a reflection of a person they don’t recognize,” says Brooke Ahlman, stylist and owner of Brookelyn’s Hair & Replacement. “It’s a constant reminder of something difficult they are facing. The best solution is to restore that image of themselves prior to whatever has happened in their lives, and we can help do just that.
At Brookelyn’s Hair & Replacement we can help anyone who has experienced an unplanned life change that has affected the growth or wellbeing of their hair. We offer non-surgical hair replacement and have worked with many clients who needed to get their confidence back and restore some semblance of normalcy in their lives. It is amazing how hair loss can affect a person even as a part of the normal aging process, let alone if it’s lost during the chemotherapy process or it’s necessary for the head to be shaved for surgery. Our systems are made with real hair, so nobody will know you are being challenged in life. They let you enjoy life just like you did when you had a full head of hair. You can shower, go on roller coasters, and live life as you want without feeling depressed or like everyone is looking at you.
Starting the process is as simple as coming in for a free consultation, which provides the opportunity to discuss what you are experiencing and how everything will work moving forward. After going over the options, if a hair system is the best for you, the next step is finding the closest match to your current hair. Custom systems take a little longer to get in than an off-the-shelf system, but this way we can get as close to the look you desire as possible.
At Brookelyn’s Hair & Replacement, we will be honest with you, don’t ever pressure you, and if we don’t offer the right or best solution for you and your needs, we will help guide you in the right direction as we understand that not everyone is the right fit for what we offer. If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me directly at (402) 649-0212.”
Altogether, though everyone will experience different types of losses, and cope in different ways, one bridge we will all cross at some point is death. This also applies to what we discussed previously regarding having the tough conversations.
“When it comes to death, although it’s a part of life for us all, many unfortunately still find the conversation to be taboo,” explains Dr. Rebecca Wester of Douglas County Health Center. “We see death everywhere; it’s all around us – in video games, movies, the evening news. Yet, society is far more comfortable with the possibility of a fantasy zombie apocalypse than facing the reality of death and making end-of-life plans accordingly. So many do so little to prepare, and some still refuse to discuss it altogether.
Here’s a short list of what I’ve found based on my experience with patients when it comes to death. Most individuals wish to die at home. Most individuals want to be pain-free, and that applies to all types of suffering – physical, existential, spiritual, emotional. Most individuals do not want to be a burden. Most individuals choose quality of life when faced with a terminal condition, although hospice is the most underutilized Medicare insurance benefit.
Now, for my honest advice. Choose who you what to make decisions when you can’t, and put it in writing. Nebraska forms are available for free at www.caringinfo.org. Tell your family your preferences and what’s important to you. You are in control of ranking your priorities, but it does help to have guidance from the professionals. Insurance covers an appointment to have these types of conversations like any other office visit, and it can even be part of the annual check-up too.”
“Death is inevitable, but is a topic that is often difficult to talk about before it happens,” agrees Greg Nabity of The Nebraska Cremation Society. “It is important to let your close family members know what your wishes are regarding how you wish your death to be handled. As previously mentioned, this can include advance directives for your healthcare during a final illness, and also location of documents, whether you wish to be cremated or buried, and what type of remembrance services you want to be held. We are uniquely qualified to assist you with making your wishes known. Or, we are able to guide you through the experience of an unexpected death, providing wise counsel, comfort, and guidance that will help you to best handle the situation. When navigating any of life’s unplanned changes, always seek the help of professionals who are experienced and equipped to provide information, guidance, and services that will make things much easier.”
The Earlier, The Better
Just as with anything that requires planning, although seemingly contrary to their very nature, the unexpected things that may happen in life can, and should, also be taken into account well in advance. Take life insurance and retirement plans for starters.
“At Appreciation Financial, our focus lies in the areas of pension education, safe retirement strategies, and living benefit life insurance,” says Andy Storz, a local agent with Appreciation Financial. “All that we offer serves to ensure the financial security of our clients and their families, which can be compromised as a result of life’s major unplanned life events – death, disability, chronic illness, critical disease, or any reason someone might need to step away from their career earlier than expected.
Through a product called Indexed Universal Life, in addition to a traditional death benefit, there are living benefits that cover any of these occurrences. It also offers a cash benefit that can be used for emergencies or retirement.
The future is uncertain for us all. There are ways to safeguard your future that you may not have considered, so it’s important to be informed in order to take advantage of what’s out there. Also, there’s no minimum age a person needs to be to have coverage, and to benefit from it. For example, my 3-month-old son has a policy. It gives my wife and I peace of mind and support in the event something terrible should happen, yes, but it’s also an investment in his future that provides a respectable return. If we don’t have to use any of the benefits, the entire cost of the policy and then some is available when he turns 18. He can use it then, for college perhaps, or if he chose to continue it, those additional payments would also gain interest for the life of the policy. He’s covered in the event of an emergency and earning future income on that investment all the while.
The most heartbreaking appointments are those when something has already happened and the options are more limited. It doesn’t take much to have some sort of safety net in place. A lot of people don’t realize that even if they have group policies at work that cover death and disability, that those may not necessarily help with everything they might come across, or help as much as they might think. And, sadly, the benefits may not be there after they leave their job.
Getting out ahead of what may happen is important, and the younger you are, the easier it is to get protection at the lowest rate possible. My advice is to take the time to review what you already have established to ensure you’re maximizing your resources, and to find out what’s out there, and if anything is projected to change that would affect your future.”
Another area where the earlier, the better resonates is with early detection of serious health conditions, namely cancer.
“For the majority of cancer types, including prostate cancer, if it’s caught early enough it can be managed,” says Daniel Cinotto of FirstScan. “Prostate cancer is the number two killer of men in our country, and a staggering 59% of men who have been diagnosed with it showed no warning signs that would have alerted them to a problem. For the rest, the symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways like a cough or back pain that you wouldn’t necessarily attribute to cancer. Since it’s so asymptomatic in nature, early detection is critical, and that’s something you can and should do for yourself at a certain age, even if you feel great. Cancer is a scary thing to wrestle with for anyone, and for men, that’s compounded by hopping on the Internet to do a little research and finding out the specifics of what the traditional method for detection entails, involving complications that can be traumatic. It’s a deterrent, that’s for sure. We’ve developed an MRI procedure that’s not only non-invasive and affordable, but also can tell you with approximately 97% certainty whether it’s present or not. Bottom line: Get the answers you need to go on living a full and happy life. Education is a big part of what we do here at FirstScan, so we encourage anyone who wants to know more to contact us – we’ll do all that we can to make sure you’ve got the information you need to make the best decision for yourself.”
Building Your Support System
In the best and the worst of times, no matter what you go through in life, having a strong support system in place is vital. In combination with an established plan that takes into account the unknowns, you’ll be in good shape no matter what may come your way.
Along with family and friends at the core of your support system, there are likely many others who will be on your team. As evidenced by the diversity of sources consulted on this topic, there are a host of local professionals across a wide variety of industries that will be there to offer support in some capacity, and be honored to do so. For those who experience loss, grief support groups or counseling can be very helpful. For family members who also act as caregivers, this might include taking advantage of respite care. For those seeking to maintain independence while they manage a health issue, in-home care would be an option to consider.
Life is full of unknowns, but our community is full of professionals who can help take the guesswork out of how you move forward in the face of uncertainty. In fact, get connected to the ones you might need in the future right now. It doesn’t hurt at thing to be prepared; on the contrary, it could make all the difference in how you react and the outcome of your situation.