Senior Health and Wellbeing | April 20, 2016
In Canada 45% of all women aged 65 and over are widows. Losing a spouse is ranked number one on the stress index scale.
The loss of a spouse happens to many of us at some time or another. The pain is almost unbearable, but especially for seniors and the elderly who have spent lifetimes together. The sudden or even expected loss of a spouse creates a new life devoid of old comforts and support systems. The key to handling this painful transition is to educate family and friends on the symptoms and coping mechanisms of grief.
Bereavement can have a devastating impact on the immune systems of seniors, and may explain why many older spouses soon die after the loss of their loved ones. Studies show that one reason is that a type of white blood cell, the neutrophil, can be weakened. This white blood cell plays a critical role in fending off any invasions of bacteria or other infectious agents that could lead to serious illnesses, such as pneumonia ─ which often claims the lives of older bereaved people.
Deep depression and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness are often a part of the grieving process, as well. It is, therefore, good to help the grieving loved one to cope during this difficult time.
For years, we’ve been told that grief comes in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some clinicians believe that we don’t grieve in stages at all, but have mood swings that rapidly come and go. A widow or widower might feel anxious and depressed one day, and feel quite cheerful the next. Over time, those swings diminish in both frequency and intensity until a level of emotional adjustment is reached.
People who are grieving often cry easily, and can have:
One person may have paid the bills, cleaned the house, and cooked the meals. The other person may have handled car and home repairs, filed income taxes, and mowed the lawn. Now one person is left alone to do it all, causing extreme stress.
Here are some helpful tips for someone who is grieving:
Encourage him or her to . . .
Try to not make any major changes right away.
Ideas that can help during one of the loneliest of times: mealtime.
Some seniors lose interest in cooking and eating when they are alone. It may help a loved one to have a noon meal out at a senior center, a cafeteria ─ or at home with a caregiver, family, or friends. When home alone, some loved ones find that turning on a radio or TV during meals helps with loneliness.
Remember that mourning takes time. It’s common to have rollercoaster emotions for a while. Grief is a severe ─ but self-limiting ─ condition, not a permanent state. Whether a grieving senior is able to move on afterward depends on his or her own inner resources, as well the kind of support they receive from friends and family.
Comfort Keepers®’ trained caregivers help provide senior clients with the highest quality of life possible to keep them happy and healthy at home. Our Interactive Caregiving™ provides a system of care that addresses safety, nutrition, mind, body, and activities of daily living (ADLs) no matter what the weather.
For additional information on Comfort Keepers of Canada® at Toronto or any other Comfort Keepers of Canada® location please visit our home page or call us at 416-663-2930.