For seniors hit with the loss of a spouse or a loved one who was receiving care in their home, the grieving process can be a difficult, long road, especially if the death comes after a protracted illness. Seeing the health of a loved one deteriorate day after day can lead to heavy emotional consequences.
The pain of death stings at every age, but finality of loss jars seniors with a sharp reminder of the fragility of their own lives.
When seniors are grieving, it is quite possible you are in mourning yourself as an adult child of a parent. We recognize this may be a challenging time for love and for loss, and so, we put together a list of recommendations to help you cope.
Actively demonstrate care and compassion
One of the best ways to help seniors grieve is to show care and compassion. Above and beyond any other type of support, psychologists say emotional support is most needed by seniors after losing a loved one. Understand that although you won’t be able to fully take away their pain, your presence and willingness to lend an ear are likely to make a significant impact.
Monitor physical symptoms
The consequences of bereavement can trigger psychological and physical symptoms. Seniors are especially susceptible to health challenges after suffering a loss. They can experience a rise in blood pressure, memory problems, physical pain, a higher risk of heart attack, and a decreased ability to fight infection. Help seniors stay healthy by encouraging proper eating habits, regular exercise, and limiting poor health habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
Offer help with everyday tasks
Even the most physically healthy seniors, are susceptive to exhaustion and fatigue after the death of a lord on. Offer your support with housework where possible. You can provide help by cooking meals, cleaning and running errands.
Don’t be offended by negative reactions
Mood swings and anger are a common part of the grieving process. If your offer of help or emotional support is rejected, try not to take it personally. Bereavement is a complex and emotional experience, and it is unrealistic to expect a positive reaction to every gesture of kindness and compassion. If the person in mourning whom you are trying to help says something unkind or displays anger directed toward you, try reacting with sensitivity and compassion. No matter what, do not return the anger in your response.
Remember, you cannot erase the pain of death, but you can provide emotional comfort and support. Losing a loved one is a wrenching and permanent life chapter, which for seniors, also serves as a reminder that their future is vulnerable and short. So, be someone who can be reliably called upon for support when seniors need it most.
By Sally Writes, Special Correspondent for Pride PHC