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Caring for Grieving Seniors

September 02, 2015, 02:48 AM


Loss and grief is a part of life. For seniors, however, this may be a far more prevalent phenomenon as peers age and pass away. Of course, grief can be particularly impactful as partners they have lived with their entire adult lives are suddenly no longer there. Whether they actively turn to you or not, seniors need the support of family and friends. Understanding a bit about the grieving process and how to help is important, especially since often the person in mourning is unable to articulate or even identify his or her needs.

Stages of grief

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Matt Brown via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Matt Brown via flickr

The classic stages of grief are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

However, it is important to recognize that not everyone goes through every stage. And not everyone experiences the stages in this order. Grieving is a very emotional and individual process. These labels of the stages of grief can be very helpful as a general guide, but focusing on them too stringently can also prevent you from being in touch with the true experience your loved one is going through. Keep the stages of grief in mind, while focusing more on getting in touch with your loved one’s unique state of mind.

Myths of grieving

It also may be helpful to dispel some common myths surrounding grief. The first such myth is that grief has a timeline. A senior who seems to have grieved quickly is not necessarily in denial – he or she may have simply coped in a healthy way that differed from your expectations. Don’t worry – that’s okay! Grieving that seems to last longer than you expected is also not necessarily cause for concern, though you should keep an eye out for signs of mourning that slips into potentially harmful depression.

A particularly difficult myth to overcome for seniors, especially after losing a life-long partner, is that if they stop hurting, they have forsaken their loved one. Recovery from grief is healthy and the loved one who has passed would want their surviving partner to have the best quality of life possible. Guilt is common, but not something to be held onto.

How to give support

The most important elements of supporting a grieving senior are understanding, patience, and communication. Specifically, communicate permission to grieve and remind him or her that this is a natural, important, and individual process with no timeline or expectations.

Communication isn’t just a one-way street: Encourage the person in mourning to talk through what they’re feeling, to look at photos if that helps and recall memories out loud. Some people connect to the idea of talking out loud to the person who has passed away, or writing a letter. These are great tools for when you’re not around, to help them feel less alone and less lost in their grief. Also helpful for the times you can’t be there physically, whether because you live far away or simply have to get back to your own routine, is to try to connect the senior with other local seniors who are also currently grieving or have experienced similar situations in the past.

Getting professional help

Abcor professionals are trained in all kinds of support such as keeping an eye out to ensure that hygiene practices don’t spiral out of control and that clinical depression doesn’t develop. If you are concerned or simply would like more homecare than you and your family can personally provide, call Abcor today to work out a home care plan tailored to the unique circumstances facing your loved ones.

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