Tag Archives: health

Height-Adjustable Desks Are Easy To Love

May 16, 2018 by

The “act of sitting” is bad. It’s not just about how poor posture can lead to chronic pain; it can reduce life expectancy.

According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the average American spends 7.7 hours a day sitting in front of the computer, in the car, or on the couch. That equals about 55 percent of one’s waking time. 

More shocking were the findings of a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study suggested that the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise.

That last part surprised me. The study suggests that even those who go to the gym after a long day of sitting in front of the computer are going to suffer the ill effects of sitting.

Height-adjustable desks are a great way to help augment a healthier lifestyle. Because of that, these desks have been gaining popularity in households and professional workplaces. Here are some reasons to love height-adjustable desks.

Better Posture

A height-adjustable desk naturally improves posture and strengthens the spine when upright. It’s a lot harder to slouch and hunch over the computer when standing up. This means fewer backaches and pains.

Increased Energy

With better posture comes better breathing. Sitting at the computer for a long period of time can be exhausting and even painful. Think about a typical day at work: after 30 to 45 minutes of staying in the same seated position, muscles can cramp, and blood flow slows, leaving a person feeling restless and uncomfortable. Standing helps increase blood flow and even helps tone muscles. This lets employees remain alert and increases their energy while working. They become more focused, and in turn, more productive.

Longer Life

This may sound dramatic, but it is no joke: a height-adjustable desk could literally add years to a person’s life. Studies by the NIH and Centers for Disease Control, among others, have described prolonged sitting as “the new smoking.” Sedentary habits can lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. These studies show that reducing the amount of time spent seated can help reduce the risk of these diseases.

More Calories Burned

A height-adjustable desk can help avoid the health pitfalls of sitting all day and burn calories at the same time, as standing burns more calories than sitting. Studies show that about 50 calories are burned per hour when simply standing, but standing encourages people to move even more, often burning significantly more calories.

Those who are not quite ready to stand up and work should note that it is still important to get up and move…your life may depend on it!


This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

Ultramarathoner Kaci Lickteig

May 2, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are runners. There are ultrarunners. And then there’s Kaci Lickteig.

Nicknamed “the Pixie Ninja” by her friends, Lickteig has earned her place among the most competitive ultrarunners in the world. Ultrarunning is the sport of racing distances beyond 26.2 miles, the length of a marathon. Typical distances include 50 kilometers (31.07 miles), 50 miles, and 100 miles. Lickteig has won some of the most grueling races in the sport, including the Western States 100-Miler. For that win, she set the third-fastest time in the race’s 40-plus-year history, 17:57:59.

Her passion for the sport and mental toughness is part gift, part curse. Fatigue won’t slow her; cracked ribs won’t stop her. But in October 2017, she faced an injury that she could not ignore: two stress fractures in her pelvis.

She’s still working toward a full recovery with the help of fellow runner Christy Nielsen. Nielsen is a physical therapist specializing in runners and endurance athletes. Nielsen and Lickteig became friends at the start of Lickteig’s running career. Together, they’re working on returning her to the sport at which she excels.

Lickteig wasn’t a natural with running. Growing up in the small town of Dannebrog, Nebraska, she couldn’t finish her first race in high school without walking. But, training alongside her mom, running became fun. And eventually, it became a lifestyle.

She ran marathons in college, and following graduation in 2012, she ran her first ultramarathon, a 50-kilometer trail run. She won. Her next race was a 100-miler. With encouragement from Nielsen, Lickteig qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathons. Hiring coach Jason Koop in 2014 helped propel her to elite status in ultras. In 2016, UltraRunning Magazine named her the Female Ultrarunner of the Year for winning seven races, beating all runners—male and female—in three of them.

Miguel Ordorica became Lickteig’s running partner around the time she started her ultrarunning. Ordorica recalls a marathon-distance training run with Lickteig nearly five years ago, when she fell and cracked some ribs at mile seven. She kept going, finishing the final 19 miles.

“She’s different from most runners,” he says. “She really doesn’t stop. Most runners stop for bottles of water or to chat.”

That nonstop drive caught up to her in 2017 at the GOATz 50K at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. The signs of an injury were present at the start of the race: pain in her knee and groin, tightness in her back, and soreness in her hip flexors. She popped some Aleve and thought, “It’s only 30 miles.”

Usually 30 miles would be easy for her, but she wasn’t adequately rested. She’d barely allowed herself recovery time from running the Western States 100-mile race in June before she started training again. Her body was exhausted.

She was leading the women runners with a half-mile left in the race when there was a gut-wrenching pop, something she describes as feeling almost like a muscle popping off bone. A physical therapist herself, she had no idea what she did to her body, but she could barely walk.

Two days later, it was confirmed: Lickteig had two stress fractures in her pelvis, along with an assortment of other injuries. Stress fractures, especially in the lower extremities, are common for distance runners, as are knee and Achilles tendon injuries. A stress fracture like hers was rare.

“Tensile fractures are something only 2 percent of [the] population gets,” Nielsen explains. “The combo of her back being tight and her knees being so swollen, something had to give. It was her pelvis.”

She knows first-hand about the pressure athletes put on themselves. Truly trained athletes, she says, have a hard time listening to their bodies and taking a day off. She was that kind of runner, racing competitively for more than two decades and qualifying for three Olympics Trials.

“It only took me 20 years to tell the difference from being over-trained and being tired from a workout,” says Nielsen. “And that knowledge is so worth it when you get it.”

Lickteig’s recovery started with extreme restrictions. She could barely stand to get her foot in a pant leg. She could do no weight-bearing activities for the first four weeks. Then, using crutches, she’d walk three miles with Ordorica. She did upper body workouts, strength training, and stabilizing exercises under Nielsen’s supervision first at OrthoNebraska and then at ATI Physical Therapy. Lickteig also works as a physical therapist at ATI.

On the 89th day of recovery, Nielsen had Lickteig run on an antigravity treadmill for 35 minutes at 65 percent body weight.

“I still was able to run. I cried. I cried at minute 17 because I was able to run,” recalls Lickteig.

Four months after her injury, Lickteig has started training for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in June. With newfound appreciation for the limitations of the human body, she concedes she may run fewer hours each week and add more rest days.

A pelvic fracture or two won’t stop her. The Western States race is Lickteig’s dream race, according to Ordorica: “She wouldn’t miss Western States unless she had a leg fall off.”


The 2018 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run takes place June 23-24 in California (wser.org). For more information about the Omaha physical therapists helping Kaci Lickteig to recover, visit orthonebraska.com and atipt.com.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

from left: Kaci Lickteig and Christy Nielsen

Punching Back Against Parkinson’s

March 20, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The up-tempo music pulsating from the rehabilitation wing at Life Care Center of Elkhorn doesn’t signal “party time” for physical therapists ending their shift; it signals the start of another Rock Steady Boxing session for people who’ve been knocked down—but not out—by a cruel, insidious, relentless, and incurable foe: Parkinson’s disease.

Gary Johnson, diagnosed with the degenerative movement disorder about 12 years ago when he first got tremors, usually arrives early for an afternoon boxing workout. His wife drives him twice a week from their home in Fort Calhoun to the nursing and rehab facility, where Johnson greets other outpatients who share his struggles.

“I can barely talk,” Johnson says in a whisper. “[Parkinson’s] paralyzes your voice box. I’ve had DBS [deep brain stimulation], which helps with my shaking, but it hasn’t helped my balance. That’s why I come here to boxing.”

Seven men, all past 60 and exhibiting a range of Parkinson’s symptoms from mild to severe, lace up their boxing gloves and take a position on the gym floor around a makeshift boxing ring—a low platform topped with thick brown mats.

But instead of hitting each other, the boxers practice their jabs, uppercuts, and right hooks on freestanding punching bags (including a mannequin-like “body opponent bag” affectionately known by its acronym, BOB).

Coupled with a rigorous calisthenics and aerobic workout led by a Parkinson’s-trained fitness instructor, the hour-long boxing session leaves the boxers sweaty but invigorated.

“This is completely non-contact,” explains Cheri Prince, director of rehabilitation services at Life Care of Elkhorn. “Rock Steady Boxing is a national program that started in Indianapolis and Life Care became a Rock Steady affiliate two years ago. It utilizes the kind of fitness regimen boxers go through.”

Why boxing, of all things, the brutal sport of Muhammad Ali (who also fought Parkinson’s)?

“Boxers have to have speed and great balance, with the ability to move quickly on their feet. Parkinson’s patients struggle with that. Their movements get progressively slower,” Prince says. “Boxers have to be agile and flexible. Parkinson’s patients have trouble with rigidity and lack of flexibility. There are a lot of parallels.”

Paul Jackson

To get their limbs moving and muscles working, trainer Abbie Harvey pushes the group through a series of precise arm and leg stretches, forward and sideways lunges, steps to the front and back, deep knee bends, shoulder pushes off the mats, and jumping jacks.

She then gives the order to start punching, which the boxers perform with surprising ferocity. Their ever-supportive wives, sitting together as a group watching the workout, smile at the sudden burst of power.

Boxers yell out the number of punches or reps to help keep their voices strong. The music adds some fun and socialization to what amounts to a grueling workout.

The benefits of the boxing should not be underestimated. Gary Johnson, who used to work for the National Resource Conservation Service, says his walking and balance are much better.

George Moon, a framing carpenter from North Omaha whose symptoms include the inability to stand up straight, has also experienced progress.

“I noticed improvement in my writing, which was getting smaller. That’s one thing that goes. Since I started boxing here two years ago, my writing is back to normal,” Moon says.

Current research backs up their claims. While drugs manage some symptoms of Parkinson’s, only exercise has proven to actually slow its progression. Proponents of exercise point to another crucial benefit, too.

“Attitude is like 90 percent of the battle and depression is prevalent,” says Julie Pavelka, a nurse practitioner who works directly with Parkinson’s patients at Nebraska Medicine. “Exercise actually promotes stimulation of the neurochemicals, including serotonin and dopamine, that affect mood and emotions. The mood benefits from exercise are very significant.”

George Moon

Perhaps that’s why Paul Jackson and his fellow boxers don’t dwell on the lousy hand dealt to them. They’re not angry; they don’t wallow in self-pity or curse their fate.

“What you can do is take what you’ve got, like exercise and boxing, take the tools you have and try to make the most of them,” says Jackson, who displays only a slight hitch to his gait. “We’re hoping they find a cure, but I know it won’t be in my lifetime.”

For the over 500 Nebraskans diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year (most are seniors), a cure can’t come fast enough.

“We’re in the Parkinson’s belt along with Iowa, North Dakota, and Minnesota,” explains Pavelka, highlighting what researchers suspect: pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers may somehow play a role in contracting the disease.

For people living with Parkinson’s in the Omaha area who wish to focus on their quality of life and forge new friendships, a little boxing ring may be just what the doctor ordered.

Life Care Center of Elkhorn offers Rock Steady Boxing to outpatients every Monday at 4 p.m., and Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sessions cost $10 each, no reservations required. Visit lifecarecenterofelkhorn.com for more information.

George Moon

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of 60 Plus.

Hey Parents-

March 16, 2018 by

This sponsored content was printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/fg_flipbook_0318/2

Summer slide may sound like an exciting activity, but in reality it’s no fun. The term refers to the learning loss many children experience over the summer. Research shows that without access to learning activities throughout the summer, kids fall behind academically. For students who are already behind in school, summer learning loss pushes them even farther behind their peers. Repeat this year after year, and major consequences develop, as one in six children who do not read proficiently by third grade fail to graduate high school in time—four times the rate for third graders with proficient skills.

“We want children to have the best summer ever, and of course that means time for play, but it’s also important that children continue to engage and learn,” said Jenny Holweger, Vice President of Program Development at the YMCA of Greater Omaha. “A child’s development is never on vacation, and at YMCA Summer Camps, kids don’t just learn about the world around them; they actively engage in the world around them.”

In Omaha, the YMCA of Greater Omaha helps prevent the summer slide by offering a diverse selection of summer camps that keep kids active while sharpening their minds.

The stress of finding the right summer camp can feel overwhelming, but with the YMCA of Greater Omaha’s easy-to-read Camp Guide (now available online and at all nine YMCA of Greater Omaha locations), shopping for the best summer camp fit is as simple as browsing through a catalog.

With such a variety of camp options, it’s easy to find the perfect camp to keep your child engaged, and learning, while having fun along the way.

YMCA summer camps include: day camp for kindergarten-twelve years, the outdoor-enthusiastic favorite Camp Platte for ages 6-15, half and full day specialty camps that allow for mastery of topics ranging from babysitting to healthy living to Lego building for ages 5-14, STEM camps for kindergarten-fifth grade, preschool camp, and teen leadership camps.

Outside of camp, parents and caregivers can help by keeping their children reading and engaged in learning throughout the summer. Here are a few tips from the Y to help parents get started:

Foster an Early and Ongoing Passion for Books—Read to and with your kids. Start a book series together and read each night as a family. Reading at night keeps the brain buzzing and young minds active!

Visit Your Local Library—Explore new books you and your kids may have missed to keep your mind sharp during the summer. Be sure to check out special programming while you’re there; many libraries offer classes, story time or programs throughout the summer.

Cut Screen Time—With smartphones, tablets, video games, television and movies there are more options than ever for your child to entertain themselves with screens, but children should spend no more than two hours per day in front of a screen.

Enroll Your Kids in Camp—Camps like those offered at the Y provide well-rounded programming, make learning fun and provide a social outlet for your children throughout the summer.


Pick up your YMCA camp guide today at all YMCA of Greater Omaha location or online at metroymca.org/camp.

Kids Otter Know

Photography by provided

Summer camps with swimming activities will certainly have safety practices in place, but parents should take steps ahead of time to help their children be safer in and around pools and lakes. According to Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Department, water safety begins before anyone enters the water.

“You don’t even have to be by a body of water; you learn about the dangers and how to be responsible in and around water,” she says. “Water safety should be taught as the child grows like any other safety discussion we have with our children.”

Stratman recommends that families review pool regulations and swimming rules, including such particulars as depth boundaries, the distance between the child and an adult, and which fixtures (i.e., diving boards, slides, fountains) are permitted, along with the appropriate activities for each.

Formal water safety instruction offered by the city and other sources emphasizes rules. Jenny Holweger, YMCA of Greater Omaha’s vice president of program development, says that YMCA water safety and swim lessons have recently been modified, including stronger emphasis on out-of-pool guidelines that also promote safety.

“We’ve decided we should be intentional about teaching things like asking permission from an adult to get into the water and other fundamentals,” she says. “We have been teaching kids to swim for 175 years; it evolves over time. We always concentrated on personal safety and rescue skills, but the water safety skills we have honed in on for participants now are very practical. And they’re things all kids, all adults—everyone—should know.”

Another important concept for parents to practice, and teach, is respect for others in any public swimming facility or beach. That can mean taking turns on slides and diving boards; not shoving, splashing, or dunking other children; and even curbing exuberant shrieking and yelling.

“It’s just being cognizant of those who are around you,” Holweger says. “Just being aware of your surroundings and who else is in that space, and being polite and courteous.”

“Kids are all out for fun,” Stratman says. “But I do think most people use common sense and etiquette, and respect shared facilities and use them properly—just realize there are other people using them as well. You don’t want to impede on anyone’s enjoyment, and you don’t want them impeding on yours. It’s everybody’s space.”

Basic instruction should start when children are introduced to water, Holweger says. The YMCA even offers parent-and-child classes for families with children as young as six months old. These classes emphasize fun and safety. The City of Omaha provides similar classes along with Josh the Otter Water Safety & Awareness program and Float 4 Life training.

Traditional swim lessons are suitable for children over age 3 and focus on more advanced activities like strokes, breathing techniques, and rescue skills.

Even older inexperienced or marginal swimmers can learn survival techniques like “swim-float-swim” or “jump-push-turn-grab,” Holweger says. And non-swimmers can benefit from basic safety instruction, too.“ You do not have to be a water enthusiast.”

Many of the same rules and principles that make public pools more enjoyable also apply to spraygrounds, Stratman says. Adults should insist on respectful behavior like taking turns and forbid roughhousing. And safety is still an issue. “Even though there’s no standing water, there’s still risk.” Running can lead to falls, for instance. On hot summer days, the pavement of parking lots or walking paths leading to spraygrounds can burn bare feet.

Adults can also help protect children in and around water by being safe themselves, Stratman says.

“Adults need to be responsible around the water and be a good role model when it comes to water safety,” she says. “Saying ‘I know how to swim so I don’t need to wear a life jacket when I’m on a boat’ would be like saying, ‘I’m a good driver so I don’t need to wear a seat belt.’ Accidents happen.”

Teaching good safety practices and respect for others “makes being around water fun and enjoyable,” Holweger says. The learning experience can be fun, too, Stratman adds.

“We really encourage parents to be active swimmers with their children,” she says. “A pool or a sprayground is a perfect opportunity for a parent to engage with their child and play with them.”

Out of all the precautions adults—even young adults like camp counselors—can take to keep children safer in and around water, one rises above the rest.

“Adults should know that supervision is the No. 1 thing they can do to protect their kids around the water,” Holweger says.

“You cannot substitute adult supervision,” Stratman says. “[Adults] need to supervise children and watch and be vigilant.”


Visit parks.cityofomaha.org or metroymca.org for more information.

This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

No Sick Days Allowed

February 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A badly congested and bleary-eyed man pokes his head through a door and intones, “Dave, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’ve got to take a sick day tomorrow.”

The recipient of the man’s pronouncement isn’t his boss, but a brown-eyed toddler standing in his crib with a quizzical look on his little face.

This TV commercial for a cold medicine elicits chuckles, but the underlying message is nothing to sneeze at: Moms and dads who care for their children can’t take days off.

As germs begin to outnumber snowflakes, take comfort. Several basic, commonsense, and proactive approaches to keep bugs at bay exist, as outlined by a medical doctor, a registered dietitian, and a mental health expert.

For The Body

Wash Your Hands

Good hand hygiene ranks No. 1 on the prevention list of Dr. Emily Hill Bowman, a physician at Boys Town Internal Medicine. That means frequently washing your hands with soap and water, or, in their absence, using a hand sanitizer.

“Contact with hands is a frequent cause of transmission for viral infections,” says Hill Bowman, and that includes touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Medical guidelines recommend a good scrubbing for 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Cover Your Mouth

Viral illnesses can spread through respiratory secretions. “Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, then wash your hands,” cautions the internist.

Get a Flu Shot

Because influenza can lead to serious consequences, especially for younger children and the elderly, Hill Bowman recommends everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot to prevent the spread of the virus. ”Typically, the influenza vaccine is an inactive vaccine so it does not cause influenza,” reassures Hill Bowman, allaying concerns a flu shot might do more harm than good.

Take Vitamin D

Healthy habits make your immune system fight infection. That means eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. “But we don’t get enough vitamin D in our diet and we don’t get enough [vitamin D] from the sun after September, which is why vitamin D is always my starting point with people,” says registered dietician and exercise physiologist Rebecca Mohning, owner of Expert Nutrition in Omaha. “It boosts the immune system and it’s naturally occurring in mushrooms and egg yolks, but not in the amount we need on a daily basis.”

Eat Fiber

Mohning says fiber, particularly that found in oats, barley, and nuts, has protective compounds that boost the immune system.

Probiotics—the Friendly Bacteria

Those good live cultures found in yogurt or in the fermented milk drink kefir also boost your body’s ability to fight infection, as do fermented foods like sauerkraut. Not a fan? Take a probiotic supplement, says Mohning.

Drink Water

Getting enough water during the winter months can be more difficult because you may not feel as thirsty. But nothing beats water for flushing toxins from your body. Try drinking a 12-oz. mug of hot water with one teaspoon of lemon juice for a healthy way to warm up.

For The Mind

Does anyone in your family turn on all the lights in the house as soon as the sun makes an early exit during the winter? Seasonal affective disorder, also called the winter blues, affects about 15 million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The depressive disorder can sap your energy and bring on moodiness. Treatment for SAD can include a light box and, in extreme cases, talking with a mental health practitioner.

Plan Activities and Stick to the Plan

Heading off the blues before they arrive can be as simple as marking a calendar, says Jennifer Harsh, Ph.D., director of behavioral medicine for General Internal Medicine at UNMC. “If we know the cold weather season can be difficult for us mentally, we can plan ahead,” she says.

As a family therapist, Harsh believes strongly that keeping the mind and the body active can help your physical, emotional, and social well-being.

“Plan activities as a family or with a partner, whether they include games indoors or physical exercise elsewhere. Put them on a schedule or calendar and hold it with the same importance as you would hold going to work every day,” she says. “That way you act according to the schedule instead of according to your mood.”

Harsh says you can stave off emotional difficulties when you have something planned ahead of time that you value.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Maintaining good mental health should hold fast to the commonsense, basic, proactive approach that characterizes a healthy body discipline.

“Make your goals specific, attainable, and measureable,” says Harsh. “When you engage your family or a partner, you’re more likely to follow through.”

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

The Hidden Menace of Elder Abuse

February 20, 2018 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

During Labor Day weekend in 2014, Jill Panzer and her youngest aunt set out for a seven-hour drive to Hemingford, Nebraska, to pick up Jill’s grandmother, Edna. The two were going under the guise that Edna would be staying in Omaha for a few weeks. Unbeknownst to Edna or her eldest daughter (who was also Edna’s caretaker), the two planned on keeping Edna in Omaha, because they suspected she was being exploited by her caregiver.

Panzer, the granddaughter, suspected something was amiss because her mother (Edna’s second of three daughters) said Edna—who had turned 90 a few years earlier—was appearing more and more confused during visits. Her eldest aunt moved into Edna’s home in the fall of 2011, months after Edna stumbled over her ottoman and injured her back.

Panzer says Edna’s eldest daughter began giving her mother the drug Lorazepam without a prescription to help Edna sleep at night and to help with her anxiety. Edna was later legally prescribed the drug. Then, the granddaughter says her youngest aunt visited Edna in July 2014. During that visit, she reported back to family in Omaha that the matriarch had a gash on her arm from a fall. She appeared extremely confused. Edna’s finances were also showing irregularities, such as missed rent payments that were due to Edna.

“We started looking and realizing there were a bunch of little things happening,” Panzer says.

When they arrived at Edna’s house, Panzer and her youngest aunt noticed Edna wasn’t packed for the trip. Edna’s eldest daughter told Panzer that Edna wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t make the trip to Omaha. In Edna’s home, her eldest and youngest daughter began arguing. While Edna and her daughters were talking, Panzer went to her grandmother’s room and began packing whatever clothes she could into suitcases and sacks. Panzer would later find out that many of the things she packed wouldn’t even fit her grandmother.

“I literally just packed up my entire car while those two women were going back and forth about everything,” Panzer says.

As the arguing continued, Edna began to feel ill. She went to the bathroom. Panzer tried to convince her to go back to Omaha with them. Panzer told her youngest aunt, “If I have to call the sheriff, we are leaving this house today with my grandmother.”

Panzer got her grandmother’s walker and helped her into the van. As she buckled her grandmother in, Edna’s youngest and eldest daughters were still talking. Finally, Edna’s youngest daughter got in the van with Panzer.

“I hit my power button, the sliding door in the van shut. I threw it in reverse, and we just drove,” Panzer says.

During the drive, Edna was upset. Eventually, the mood calmed enough that they ate fried chicken at a restaurant in Broken Bow on the way back to Omaha. When they finally arrived, Edna stayed at her youngest daughter’s home.

Panzer and her youngest aunt arranged medical evaluations for Edna. Doctors determined Edna didn’t show signs of physical abuse, but they did note her blood pressure medication was being administered improperly.

Along with scheduling medical evaluations, Panzer began making calls to close any financial accounts that Edna’s eldest daughter had access to, including Edna’s credit cards and bank accounts. On paper, this would appear to be a challenge, because Edna’s eldest daughter’s husband was her power of attorney. All it took was Edna’s verbal OK to close many of her accounts.

“It was that stinkin’ easy. All I had to do was put my grandmother on the phone. It’s almost criminal,” Panzer says.

As Edna’s financial and medical issues were being resolved, the matter of placing her in an assisted living center still loomed. Neither Panzer nor her youngest aunt were able to care for Edna full time. Panzer’s mother (Edna’s middle daughter) lived hours away. Panzer says her grandmother reluctantly agreed to stay in an assisted living center for rehab, but not permanently.

“She’s buried two husbands. She’s always been a fiercely independent, proud woman,” Panzer says.

Since that Labor Day trip in 2014, Edna has continued to live in the same assisted living center. Panzer was able to get a new, independent power of attorney for Edna. Her home in Hemingford was sold, and Panzer had to hire lawyers and go to court to evict Edna’s grandchild (the daughter of Edna’s eldest daughter) from Edna’s house.

“I don’t have a unique story,” Panzer says.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the forms of elder abuse as the physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of an older adult. It also lists neglect and financial exploitation as other forms of abuse. In 2016, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported that Adult Protective Services received 126 cases of elder abuse in Douglas and Sarpy counties.

Attorney Susan Spahn handles estate and trust matters at Endacott, Peetz & Timmer law firm. As people’s life expectancy continues to increase, so does the time when people are living in a “gray area,” which Spahn defines as a place where people are capable of living independently, but at the same time, are vulnerable to exploitation from family members, or telephone and internet-based scams.

“They can tell stories from the past that are accurate, but if you ask them to make a decision that requires thought, they cannot do it,” Spahn says.

When a parent becomes less and less able to make financial decisions for themselves, their children are the most likely to be called to handle the finances. It’s no coincidence that the most common perpetrators of financial abuse for elders come from immediate family members.

Spahn compares the hidden scourge of elder abuse to the rampant spousal abuse that went unreported in the middle of the 20th century. “Nobody would talk about it. And it was viewed as a civil matter,” she says.

Some of the biggest temptations for elder abuse comes when a family member may still be reliant on their parents for financial assistance. Then, when the parent becomes unable to handle their own financial matters, the dependent child suddenly has access to a parent’s bank account and starts writing checks to themselves, Spahn says.

Another issue Spahn has seen is with inheritance, and children who are expecting their inheritance to help them as they age themselves.

“If mom and dad are holding on to 95, then that means they’re approaching their retirement without their inheritance, and they don’t like that,” Spahn says.

Spahn says the best way to prevent financial elder abuse is to appoint someone they trust the most with their bills as their power of attorney.

“I tell my clients the power of attorney is more important than their will,” Spahn says. “The will isn’t pulled out until after they’re gone.”

If a person either doesn’t have children, or has children who live too far away to be an effective power of attorney, Spahn says the next best step is to appoint a corporate fiduciary to handle their financial matters. Most banks have trust departments, where people can appoint independent financial guardians.

If a parent has more than one child, Spahn says one of the best ways to alleviate family tension amongst siblings is to have the designated power of attorney provide copies of banking and financial statements, and use software like Quicken to provide online access to such information.

“If one child is not willing to do that, then that’s a red flag,” Spahn says. “If mom is still alive, and the kids are hiring lawyers, they’ve all just lost.”

To report elder abuse, people are urged to call Adult Protective Services at 800-652-1999. Callers may remain anonymous. Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse at ncea.acl.gov for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Legislating Health Care Solutions for Small Businesses

February 4, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Health care consultant Sean McGuire has a background in political science. “My first job out of college was working in Washington, D.C., which is what I always wanted to do,” McGuire says.

The Iowa native worked on the staff of the Senate Committee on Finance, headed by Chuck Grassley, from 2005-2008. This committee oversees legislation around health care, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

McGuire continued to educate himself about health care legislation, even after coming back to Omaha. When McGuire read the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), he realized that the gray areas and sweeping size of the ACA would cause confusion.

“I recognized that this law is probably one of the biggest pieces of legislation that has ever been passed in our lifetime,” McGuire says.

McGuire then worked as the UNMC health policy adviser. A large part of this job was to inform the organization on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the university, its hospital, and the local community. The job also included organizing quarterly briefings for local media.

“Health care reform was just starting to take shape, and Sean played a lead role on a committee that included some of the Medical Center’s brightest minds…The committee served as a resource for the entire state to help people better understand what was happening with health care reform,” says Tom O’Connor, senior associate public relations director for the UNMC.

McGuire understood that the ACA would have the most impact on doctors, small hospitals, and small businesses.

“They are there to provide a service—they’re not there to figure out government regulations and compliance.” McGuire says. “Those [people] are really who we enjoy working with the most.”

To offer solutions for health care for those small businesses, McGuire founded E.D. Bellis in 2011.

E.D. Bellis is named for McGuire’s great-great-great-grandfather, who came to Omaha in 1870. Bellis was recommended by a talent agent in New York to be the first organist for Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church and would be described as the “finest organ player west of the Missouri” in his obituary.

“He was a very influential person in the Omaha community that brought music and culture to a city that really needed it,” McGuire says. “I felt that he was the perfect face for what we’re trying to build…we’re trying to bring something new, which is information and understanding to people that need it, just as he brought culture and music to a rough pioneer town.”

In 2013, E.D. Bellis began an agency and broker partnership program with the insurance company Guardian. In that capacity, ED Bellis lends their health care law and compliance expertise to customers of Guardian as a complimentary service.

“They’re unique to the marketplace,” says Doug Gillespie, group sales consultant at Guardian.

In 2015, they began working throughout Des Moines, and in 2016 they started working with the Quad Cities and Ohio.

In summer 2017, E.D. Bellis branched out to Presque Isle, Maine. It’s an area that has a shortage of health care expertise. Five or six hospitals cover a portion of the state the size of Connecticut.

McGuire liked the fact that they were innovative, exemplified by their participation in the pioneer Accountable Care Organization demonstration. ACOs were eligible for higher reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare if they met all the required standards of providing higher quality care and keeping their population healthy. While 32 health care systems were selected to take part, only a third of them made money.

E.D. Bellis plans to complement their existing programs and capitalize on new opportunities as the laws change.

“What I believe we are onto is a national concept that could be replicated all across the country,” McGuire says. “If it does, it’s going to prove our concept and we’ll open up in other parts of the country as well.”

McGuire anticipates that Omaha will remain the headquarters for E.D. Bellis, partially because Omaha and Des Moines are insurance and health care-heavy. “Almost every large building all over the Midwest is some sort of insurance,” McGuire says. Yet, many are still in the dark about health care. E.D. Bellis is there to help.

“The Affordable Care Act has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people, but it’s done good things too,” McGuire says. “I didn’t do this to make a buck. I did this to fill a need.”

Visit edbellisinc.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Strong Medicine, Community Healing

January 23, 2018 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“My grandmother—who was my first mentor, and I idolize her to this day—was a shaman,” says Donna Polk, a licensed mental health practitioner who has a Ph.D. in administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “I grew up with her laying hands on people and with people coming to her house for her to pray for them.”

Inspired by her grandmother’s work and fascinated by her Native heritage (Comanche), the young Polk set out to establish a healing legacy of her own, one that continues to this day.

From her counseling work at the Lincoln Indian Center, to her time on the Lincoln-Lancaster County Board of Health, to her directorship at No More Empty Pots, Polk has dedicated her life to serving disenfranchised communities, advocating for marginalized peoples, and fighting for more effective and accessible health care. Her work has earned her numerous accolades, including a lifetime achievement award from Voices for Children in Nebraska.

For the past 26 years, she’s continued her important work as chief executive officer of the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, where she has spearheaded an initiative to expand services and relocate the NUIHC to a new facility at the former location of the South Omaha Eagles Club.

Conceptual drawing of Eagle Heights, provided by developer Arch Icon.

If all goes according to plan, construction and renovation at the new site will be underway in 2019. The relocation would involve a land swap with Arch Icon Development, which has purchased the South Omaha property and four surrounding lots. Arch Icon already owns the Flats on Howard that surround the health coalition’s current location. But the land swap is not yet a sure deal.

“It all hinges on our ability to raise $7 million to cover the new building’s renovation costs,” Polk says.

Polk—or “Dr. Donna,” as she is known around the office—was born to a military family in Denver, Colorado. She spent her childhood moving from state to state, following her submariner father from assignment to assignment. “I’m from a lot of places that prepared me for living in Omaha,” she says.

In 1964, Polk’s husband was stationed at the Nike Hercules missile site near Louisville, Nebraska. “Colored” people were not allowed to live in Louisville, so the Red Cross set up the family with a home in North Omaha. “We had lived in Maryland, so I was used to segregation,” she explains. “But I loved living in North Omaha. Like South Omaha is today, we had everything we needed.”

“That’s what I’m trying to develop in our project,” Polk says, referring to the coalition’s new initiative. “A little community for the descendants of the original settlers of this land.” Her organization serves members of the five tribes of Nebraska (and other federally recognized tribes) living in the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas. Many NUIHC services are available to the public, regardless of Native ancestry.

The NUIHC is a nonprofit organization that provides “community health care and services targeting the urban American Indian and Alaska Native population.” Services include transitional living, substance abuse treatment, sexually transmitted disease testing, funeral services, diabetes education, and youth and elder community programs, among others. Aside from its Omaha headquarters, the organization manages the Nebraska Urban Indian Medical Center in Lincoln.

Executive directors of regional Indian centers in Lincoln, Omaha, and Sioux City, Iowa, established the coalition in 1986. Polk says it originally formed to “focus on health issues, leaving the Indian centers to focus on socio-economic issues, employment, housing, financial supportive services, education, and things of that nature.”

“Now there is no Indian center in Sioux City and none in Omaha, so we hope our new facility will increase our capacity to do more in the realm of job placement, training, and there is even possible collaboration with Metropolitan Community College in the works,” she says.

Polk says that a “stroke of luck and genius” brought her to the health coalition in 1991. “Genius on the part of my mentor [Syd Beane, the former director of the Lincoln Indian Center], who was leaving Nebraska for a role with the Center for Community Change in San Francisco,” she explains. Polk had been with the Lincoln Indian Center since 1985. “He said, ‘Donna, you need to really think about where you’re going to go when I leave. But I have a place for you to go.’”

That place was the coalition. “When I learned about this organization, and the fact it was health-related, and it was Native—because I knew that we had Native blood in our family—I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’” Polk took the job and, before long, she had established a nonprofit clinic in Lincoln. She remembers thinking, “I’m really like Grandma now!”

Omaha resident Robert O’Brien was president of the coalition’s board when Polk was hired as its executive director, and he praises her accomplishments.“I can’t say enough good things about Donna,” O’Brien says (praise that Polk reciprocates for the former board president). “She was exactly what we needed, and you can see how far we were able to go with the clinic in Lincoln and treatment center in Omaha, and I give Donna all the credit. She is a very, very capable executive director.”

Polk emphasizes that the coalition focuses on behavioral health, youth, and families: “Our goal is to elevate the health status of urban Indian people. That encompasses everything, because you have to look at the social determinants of health—that’s housing, that’s food security, that’s a sense of well-being, being proud to be whoever it is that you are.”

In place of their existing headquarters near 24th and Howard streets, the new South Omaha location, at 23rd and N streets (tentatively named “Eagle Heights”), will include apartments and a renovated clubhouse. The expanded facility will offer additional services for the local Native and non-Native community, including housing, accommodations for elders, and additional space for cultural events.

“I want to have a recovery community,” Polk says. “A place where people who are no longer abusing alcohol and drugs can live and have their own little community.”

While they own a clinic in Lincoln, NUIHC refers patients for medical services in Omaha to the Fred Leroy Health and Wellness Clinic, which Polk says offers “Native people a place to go if they want to be served by a tribe.” The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska operates the clinic, located in the South Omaha neighborhood where NUIHC plans to relocate.

Donna Polk is a five-year survivor of breast cancer. She was the 2016 Honorary Komen Race Chair.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

New Technology

December 8, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Dr. Manju Hapke finished medical school more than 40 years ago in India, the latest technology at her school was an X-ray machine.

Since then, the CHI Health Clinic physician completed residencies at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens and the University of Nebraska College of Medicine.

Hapke has worked in Omaha as a family medicine physician for more than 20 years. During that time, the doctor has seen lots of technological changes, especially in the field of diagnostics.

“We used to solely rely on a physical exam,” Hapke says. “That’s how we made our diagnoses. Now we have such good diagnoses thanks to scans and other diagnostics.”

Dr. Paul Paulman, a professor with the UNMC Department of Family Medicine and a primary care physician, agrees that diagnostics have come a long way, especially in the last five years.

“The radiologists and other imaging professionals have really improved imaging technology,” Paulman says. “Ultrasound is becoming bedside now.”

That is good news, especially in pediatrics. One common use of ultrasound in pediatrics is for appendicitis, which affects 70,000 children in the United States annually.

While ultrasound is leading the way in imaging technology, faster, more compact CT scans and MRIs may not be far behind.

“Pictures are getting sharper, so they can hone in on areas [of the body],” Paulman says. “It’s an area that is constantly improving as computers get faster.”

Ultimately, Hapke is most excited to see what direction diagnostics will take in the future. “I think at some point what will happen is that a patient will walk into a room with equipment and when they walk out we will have all sorts of details about their organs and how they’re functioning. It will be like a diagnostic walkthrough.”

Until that day comes, Hapke has found a technological way to enhance her patients’ care while eliminating some time on data entry.

“I was one of the first physicians who launched the use of Google Glass in Omaha,” Hapke says.

Google Glass is an electronic device that connects to the internet. When it appeared on the scene in 2013, the tech community initially touted it as the next great advancement. The high price point and imbedded camera ultimately resulted in few people using the device, but in July 2017, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced that Google Glass 2.0 is coming—this time geared to specific professions, including medicine.

Around the same time as the first Google Glass arrived, regulations on electronic health records became stricter, causing doctors to spend more time on data entry and less time with patients. Hapke realized that by using Google Glass, she could look at her patients, not a computer screen, during a visit.

“There’s so much information the patient gives you with their expressions that you just don’t get through the words,” she says.

A child, especially, might mention having a “tummy ache,” but point at their lower right portion of the abdomen where the appendix resides.

Google Glass works in conjunction with a remote human scribe. The scribe can see and hear the doctor and patient. The doctor must verify and approve the notes that the scribe took during the visit; the notes do not become permanent until the doctor gives the OK.

The scribe can also deliver information to the doctor in real time during the patient visit.

“When you do it in real time, you get a lot more of the information down. When you depend on your memory, you will forget half of it. Google Glass enables me to get both information and cues from the patient,” she says.

According to Hapke, the other advantage is the patient can hear what she is telling the scribe. She asks the patient if he/she understands what’s being said, which helps encourage the patient to ask questions.

Hapke can also have her scribe look up information electronically in the patient’s chart. So if she wants to know the results of a particular test or procedure, the information is available immediately.

“It’s like I have an assistant with me all the time. Because we only have so much time to be with each patient, this helps me maximize my interactions. I can practice old-fashioned medicine with good bedside manner but at the same time have state-of-the-art results at my fingertips,” Hapke says.

She’s been using the technology for about two years and estimates it saves her about 20 hours a week.

Hapke finds keeping up with new procedures and technology easy, especially since she loves to read and admits to being fascinated with medicine.

“It’s not that hard to keep up in this day and age. I am more impressed with my forefathers and how they kept up with everything, and how they advanced medicine to where it is today,” she says. 

Visit chihealth.com for more information.

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.