Guest Blog: How Can You Help If A Senior Loses Their Spouse? by Hazel Bridges

Hazel Bridges

When someone you love passes away, the result is chaos, pain, and guilt. Although anger and sadness are normal parts of the grieving process, that doesn’t make them any easier to bear.

So when someone in their Golden Years loses their spouse, they can truly suffer.

As a caregiver or friend to a senior, you want to be there for them. But what does that mean exactly? Read on for some practical tips on helping a senior grieve the loss of their spouse, including what to do with everyday jobs and when it might be time for an assisted living facility.

The Healing Process Is Unique

Before you can help, you must understand that everyone grieves differently. Negative emotions like guilt, frustration, and sadness are all natural parts of this process. That’s why you don’t want to simply tell your senior friend to cheer up. Even if this senior has had some friends pass away before, losing their spouse is very traumatic.

Comfort Keepers offers caretaking services for seniors and has an excellent list of what you can do to help the senior. These include:

  • Encourage them to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Mental health is tied to physical health, so the senior can better process strong emotions when their body is healthier.
  • Give them information on how they can stay active. Keeping busy with meaningful tasks like tutoring, gardening, or even playing bingo will help bring joy when it’s needed.
  • Remind the senior to take medications and assist them with making doctor’s appointments.

Getting Everyday Jobs Done

Even with encouragement, activities, and reminders, your senior friend can struggle with everyday jobs around the home. As they process their grief, they can either feel listless or forget about things like dishes, paying bills, car repairs, and so on. As these things fall by the wayside, this can make their stress even worse.

This is where you come in. If you want to help the senior after losing their spouse, you can offer to help them with everyday jobs:

  • Work with the senior to create a weekly plan of chores and tasks. Then, put these in a calendar. This can help the senior remember what needs to be done, especially if their spouse had always managed certain jobs.
  • Focus on keeping your senior friend organized. Plans and calendars will help, but look into organizing their home to reduce their stress.
  • Set up reminders for prescriptions and doctor’s appointments. These cannot be missed, but it’s easy to forget when you’re grieving the loss of a spouse.

 Do They Need To Downsize? 

You may find organizing and reminding doesn’t work. Even with your assistance, the senior might keep having accidents, forgetting prescriptions, and the like. In these cases, it may be time to discuss downsizing into an assisted living facility.

To better know when such a move is needed, the experts at Aging Care (a community of caregivers) lists several signs that show it’s time for assisted living:

  • Food is going to waste at their home, and you notice they look thinner.
  • The senior has unexplained bruises and accidents.
  • Their personal hygiene and laundry are suffering.
  • The old home is too big or has too many levels.
  • They’re giving up on social activities and becoming isolated.

The AARP has some guidelines for finding the right assisted living facility should your senior friend need one. Start your research by making a list of facilities in the area. Look to the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) and the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) for options.

Then, make a visit. Check out the floor plan, available activities, cleanliness, and the rights afforded to residents by the facility. Once you have a few solid options, politely and gently discuss assisted living with your senior friend. Instead of telling them outright to go, try to help them come to this decision on their own.

You Can Help Right Now

Helping your senior friend with their grief can be taxing and stressful at times. Make sure to take care of you in this process, also. By giving them some assistance, helping with small tasks, and having an honest discussion about possibly downsizing and/or moving into an assisted living facility, you can make a difference — and that makes it all worthwhile. You might even encourage them to participate in an online wellness class, such as this one entitled, “Senior Wellness Through the Spouse-Loss Journey,” which you can inquire about here. The bottom line is that your loved one needs your help through this emotional time. With the right tools and resources, you can encourage them to grieve in a healthy way.


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