Tag Archives: assisted living

Are You Ready

December 4, 2014 by

Have everyday tasks become difficult for you? Do you feel afraid and anxious and aren’t sure why? Maybe it’s time to consider the big question you’ve been avoiding—an assisted living community. Some of the common experiences cited above may indicate it’s time to move onto senior living. Let’s look at a checklist that may help you collect your thoughts before we allay your fears by debunking some of the myths associated with senior living.

Check to see if you experience any of the following conditions frequently:

  • Difficulty keeping up with household chores and maintenance.
  • Difficulty providing food and nutrition for yourself without someone else’s help.
  • Forgetting to take medications, or taking the wrong amounts.
  • Difficulty in everyday living activities such as bathing, shopping, driving, dressing, cooking, and laundry.
  • Discomfort or fear leaving the house or taking transportation.
  • Receiving bruises, scratches and other injuries easily after falling.
  • Anxiety about falling with no one there to help.
  • Finding yourself lost or “wandering.”
  • Feeling isolated from social activities with friends your age.
  • Difficulty with intrusive feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear.
  • Difficulty remembering people and places that were once familiar.
  • Experiencing such safety problems as leaving stoves and coffeepots on.

Myths about senior living

MYTH: Assisted living is the same as nursing homes.

TRUTH: Assisted living is designed on the idea of independent living. It’s the way you would live in your home, but with custodial care, light housekeeping, and help in daily activities. In assisted living, you can browse unique communities and choose your own independent apartment or condo with your own conditions and furnishings. By contrast, nursing homes provide round-the-clock medical attention to patients who need a great deal of help with everyday living, or who have cognitive or physical impairments that prevent them from living daily life comfortably.

MYTH: I’ll lose my independence if my family moves me into a “home.”

TRUTH: With the right assisted living community, your privacy and autonomy will be maintained in your independent residence, with most communities offering you a choice of your own living options and conditions.

MYTH: I’ll have to give up hobbies like gardening, shopping, and cooking.

TRUTH: The fact of the matter is that most seniors are more active in senior living than they are living independently. Many communities provide facilities for various hobbies with additional fitness programs, book clubs, and other fun and games.

MYTH: I’ll be depressed living away from home.

TRUTH: Most assisted living communities are designed in the form of small towns, or even spa resorts. And while homesickness is a qualm in any move, assisted living homes are created in the form of tightly knit communities where social interaction is key.

MYTH: You can’t host social events or see friends and family.

TRUTH: On the contrary, in many assisted living homes, hosting social events is encouraged. Visiting hours are as you set them to be, while your family members can come and go as they would if you were living at home.

MYTH: You can’t own pets.

TRUTH: Absolutely untrue! Almost all assisted living communities allow cats. Dogs up to a certain size are usually permitted and leash requirements vary. Additionally, many assisted living facilities have friendly community cats and dogs with which to bond.


Puttin’ on the Ritz

December 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The rat-a-tat-tat of tap shoes resonates throughout the studio. A big out-of-town gig looms less than 24 hours away, and the troupe is working to perfect the pitter-patter steps of the “Lullaby of Broadway” number from the film Gold Diggers of 1935. Never mind that the company’s oldest hoofer was already in junior high when the film premiered. And never mind that arthritis and bum knees have perhaps taken a bit of a toll on the gams of even the leggiest members of this troupe—the Dancing Grannies won’t rest until the curtain call of 
tomorrow’s performance.

“I love dancing, and it’s just a fabulous feeling to be out there in front of all those smiling faces,” says 73-year-old Linda Hall. “But the Dancing Grannies is more than just dancing. We practice together, we travel together, and we perform together. The camaraderie among us is important, and we’re a very close-knit bunch of girls.”

“And we love the crowds and all the energy we get from them,” adds Katie DiBaise. Spending any amount of time with DiBaise leads one to guess that she was probably the class clown back when the Palmer Method was being taught for writing lessons on Big Chief tablets. Her sense of humor serves her well as the cracking-wise emcee at Dancing Grannies events. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a serious bone or two in her 78-year-old body.

“When I’m out there dancing,” DiBaise muses in one of her more reflective moments, “all I can think of is just…just…‘Wow!’”

Now in their fifth decade of grannie glitz and glam, the troupe originally formed in the late ’70s as the Camelot Steppers before later adopting the Dancing Grannies name. Assisted living centers occupy a number of dates on their schedule, but you may have seen them everywhere from high-stepping through halftime at CenturyLink Center sporting events to country line-dancing through countless area festivals and just about anyplace else where 
crowds gather.

Patricia Chase, Katie DiBaise, Jean Granlund, and Linda Hall

Patricia Chase, Katie DiBaise, Jean Granlund, and Linda Hall

Road trips can be full of surprises for the still-adventurous women who refer to each other simply as “the girls.” When the company made a refreshment stop at the retro soda fountain of Springfield Drug in the community of the same name south of Omaha, the scene seemed to practically beg for an equally retro, impromptu performance.

“The soda jerks asked us about our costumes, and one thing led to another,” explains 76-year-old Patricia Chase. “Let’s just say that there were free root beer floats involved.”

Assisted living performances remain a favorite for many of the women. “They see our costumes, and the music starts, and their faces just light up,” says Chase.

“And those hands start swaying, and those toes start tapping,” adds 81-year-old Jean Granlund, who has been with the group for more than 25 years. “They always tell us afterward that they’d be right up there dancing with us if only they could.” Granlund and Chase are the de facto leaders of the otherwise loosely organized group.

The minimum age for membership is 50 and the oldest member is now a still-spry 89. Bringing in new recruits can be something of a challenge for a group that, by definition, is limited to women of a certain age. Prospective members generally lead much more active lives than did women in the earlier days of the company, but all, Granlund explains, are welcome to check them out by visiting a rehearsal.

Like all “the girls,” she shares a lifelong love of dance.

“My mother was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland,” Granlund says. “She was a traditional Highland dancer, so dance has always been a part of my life. Later in my mother’s life when she was in assisted living, they didn’t do the sorts of entertainment programs that are common now. I always picture it as if my mother is out there in the audience every time I dance and especially when we perform in assisted living facilities. I know she would be very proud of me.”

To learn more about membership and bookings with the Dancing Grannies, contact Jean Granlund at 402-392-0497.

Exploring the Many Options of Senior Care

October 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s never easy for a family to make the decision to move a senior into a care facility. But thanks to tighter regulations and consumer demand, the dreary institutions of decades past have been replaced with a spectrum of choices depending on the level of care the individual needs.

The senior’s personal physician or medical team, which often includes a social worker, is a good first resource to help guide the family in determining what type of facility is 
most appropriate.

“Safety concerns prompt us to think ‘facility’ instead of ‘stay at home’,” says Dr. Rebecca Reilly with the Methodist Geriatric Evaluation and Management Clinic. “Does the patient need to be reminded to eat? Are they capable of cooking? Do they wander? I’ve been doing this for 20 years and situations still come up that I could never have imagined. Are people being scammed? Are they going to get locked out in the snow and not know what to do? It’s people who need supervision for their safety.”

A skilled nursing facility offers the highest level of care, explains Reilly, and may not always be a permanent placement. In some cases, round-the-clock nursing care is needed only temporarily, such as during a medical recovery period.

Assisted living is a good solution for the individual who is relatively stable medically but needs assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing and bathing, or has some mobility limitations. Staff can assist with medications and help monitor medical conditions and care, such as physical therapy. Best of all, meals and housekeeping are provided in a community setting.

“Some folks don’t need to be in a skilled facility. They need to be in an environment where they are getting the care they need and still remaining independent,” says Lisa Arp of SilverRidge, a Gretna assisted living community started by her family 13 years ago. Arp says that assisted living care plans are highly variable and can be modified with changes in a senior’s condition.

“The family is totally involved in the care plan,” she emphasizes.

Memory care is a specialized type of assisted living care available for patients with dementia. For example, they may be otherwise physically healthy but need care that accommodates some of the special concerns associated with the condition (like wandering). Memory care also provides special activities that help these individuals retain as much independence as possible, Arp says.

Independent living communities may provide one or more daily meals and often offer housekeeping services as well, but staff do not assist with nursing and medical care. “This is more about living in a congregate site with activities and amenities,” Reilly explains.

Other options are in-home care, which can range from simple companionship to intense nursing care similar to what would be provided in a hospital; and adult daycare, which offers a supervised setting and 
social stimulation.

Eve Lewis is program manager for the Office of Long-Term Care Facilities, which is in the licensure unit of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. She recommends that families looking into long-term care that involves regulated facilities—namely nursing homes and most assisted living facilities—take advantage of online resources such as the DHHS website at dhhs.ne.gov and the Medicare site at medicare.gov. Lewis also points out that citizens who have concerns about a particular facility can call DHHS at 800-942-7830 to talk to an ombudsman or launch a complaint.

Lewis says, however, that families should keep in mind that care facilities have different personalities depending on such factors as the communities in which they’re located or what activities they offer, and alternatives should be considered.

“There are a lot of things to look at in a facility to determine if it’s a good fit,” she says. “This is their home, and just like everyone’s home isn’t the same, not every facility’s going to fit your loved one.”

Not Home Alone

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As the largest generation in American history, often referred to as the post-war “Baby Boomers,” begins to reach and pass their 60th birthdays, the sheer size of the population is predicted to overwhelm the current facilities intended to meet the needs for assistive care and skilled care. That fact, along with many seniors’ desire to remain in their familiar, comfortable family home, have prompted many Americans to turn to companies and resources that can help them stay in their homes safely, happily, and productively and at a reduced expense.

The “Aging in Place’ trend has gained steam in recent years, and is expected to continue to grow in popularity in the next decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined “Aging in Place” as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

Finding quality providers of at-home products and services is one of the most important aspects in preparing a successful plan for aging in place. Omaha has a wide selection of service providers, caregivers, and equipment providers who can work with the individual or the family to make aging at home a viable option.

Matt Nyberg, owner of Home Care Assistance of Omaha, says that while the majority of “Baby Boomers” haven’t yet reached the point of requiring home-care products and services, his company is preparing for the deluge of demand ahead. His firm provides seniors with non-medical, hands-on assistance with activities of daily living, bathing, and transferring, with what he says is an innovation in the business. Each client has an RN (registered nurse) who assesses needs, manages services, and attends doctors’ appointments, if requested. The RN then communicates with the family (with the client’s permission) in order to keep the family up-to-date on the client’s condition.

Laurie Dondelinger, marketing director at Kohll’s Home Care in Omaha, recently took this writer on a tour of their 10,000-square-foot showroom, which contains hundreds, perhaps thousands, of assistive devices from canes to stairway lifts to walk-in tubs to ceiling lift tracks which literally lift a disabled person out of bed and motor them anywhere in the home where the ceiling track has been installed. Kohll’s has in-house contractors who can install assistive devices as well as remodel a home to accommodate such devices.

Dondelinger tells of a satisfied client who installed a stairway lift in his three-story house. He is so thrilled with the ease in moving from floor to floor that he feels as if he now lives in a ranch-style home, and he’s no longer faced with having to sell his beautiful home on the river where he has lived for many years.

Bob Sackett, owner of Complete Access in La Vista, got into the home-accessibility business because of a personal crisis facing a family member 25 years ago. He is now a licensed elevator sales and installation provider specializing in modular ramps, stairway lifts and elevators, for the home serving customers in western Iowa and central and eastern Nebraska. His company sells both new and previously owned products, allowing him to meet the needs of even tight budgets. Like so many in the stay-at-home business, Sackett has a true fervor about his business, which he says is not only cost-effective in keeping people in their own homes, but also improves clients’ quality of life.

However, Sackett says that, in his initial assessment, he looks and listens to learn whether or not the person can survive happily at home. If his accessibility services could result in a person living 24 hours alone with no human interaction, then he isn’t interested in the business opportunity because then he would not be providing a high quality-of-life service.

Spirit Homecare is a newcomer to the Omaha home-assistance market, providing skilled hands-on care such as administering medications and treatments per doctor’s orders, as well as non-medical services via homemakers and companions, including meal preparation, transportation services, and light housekeeping. They also provide supervised hands-on assistance with personal care needs, help with prescribed exercises and medical equipment, and much more. Up to 24-hour care and live-in companion services are available as well.

Spirit Homecare is part of St. Jude Healthcare, a company that provides services in Wisconsin, Nebraska, California, Arizona and Kansas. Although non-medical assistance is not reimbursable by Medicare, sometimes Medicaid and private long-term care insurance does provide reimbursement. Tom Moreland, CEO of St. Jude Healthcare, says that his company is the only one in the Midwest that provides services in a manner consistent with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services.

The above providers are but a tip of the iceberg of services, providers, and products available to assist with aging in place. It cannot be emphasized too much that if one wants a future at home, one should begin the planning as soon as possible.