Coping with the death of a spouse or other loved one is a daunting task. Grief follows its own journey and is different for everyone who experiences it. Certain times of year can be more challenging than others, and milestone events are often the reason why.
If your parent or another family elder has experienced a loss, these tips can help you as they attempt to process their grief and move forward.
Supporting a Senior Who is Struggling to Cope with a Loss
1. The difficult first year:
Getting through all of the first-time events alone can be challenging. Navigating the first wedding anniversary will be hard, as will the loved one’s birthday, the holiday season, and more. You can help by noting these dates on your calendar, and talking with your family member about how they would like to spend the day. It might be that your loved one wishes to spend the day alone or they may want to take a trip to be away from home when an important date arrives.
2. Be a good listener:
Sometimes the senior will just want to spend time talking about their loss and their struggles. It can be tempting to jump in and try to solve what you perceive are problems with the way they are working through their grief. This is generally not the best approach. Instead, be a good listener. Let your loved one know you will always be available to listen without giving them unsolicited advice.
3. Encourage self-care:
Grief can cause even the most devoted health guru to get off track with regard to diet and exercise. It can also lead to sleep problems ranging from insomnia to sleeping too much. Make it easier for your loved one to maintain their health by providing them with prepared meals, help with grocery shopping, and a buddy to walk or workout with. Feeling physically strong and rested may help the senior stay mentally healthier too.
4. Connect with grief support groups:
The death of a spouse is one of life’s greatest challenges. Most people find it helpful to connect with peers who have also experienced a loss and who are currently working their way through the grieving process. Most hospice agencies have a variety of bereavement and support groups that are open to the public. These can help surviving partners cope with everything from feeling angry at their loved one for dying to feeling guilty about starting to live life again.
5. Support their needs:
When a partner passes away, the surviving spouse has more than emotional and physical needs. It’s highly likely they will also require help with chores and household repairs. Older couples may have worked out ways to make grocery shopping easier, complete maintenance repairs together, and more. They had systems in place to get things done. Now that the senior is alone, keeping the household running smoothly might be very tough to do. If you aren’t able to provide as much help as they need, you might want to consider hiring an in-home caregiver or exploring retirement communities.
If a senior you love is struggling to remain in their home, give us a call at 800-304-8061. One of our experienced senior care advisors can help you explore the options for care near you!
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