The longer we live, the more friends, family members, and pets we will lose. It can start to feel like attending funerals is a regular part of life for the aged, and this can be difficult to come to terms with. The loss of these people and pets as well as the connection to them can lead to grief, loneliness, and stress.
Supporting the elderly through grief and loneliness looks somewhat different from supporting those who are younger. For the aged, they may lack mobility, making it difficult to leave home to be with others. They may also have lost a spouse, partner or close friend who they could confide in and who they depended on for support.
Here are some tips to help support elderly parents, family members or friends in their grief.
1. Grief can last a long time. Grief doesn’t end just because the cards, texts and phone calls stop coming. Make sure to continue to check in long after the outside world has moved on.
2. Grief may sometimes be delayed. This can apply especially to those who were caregivers for the deceased. Initially, the caretaker may feel relief or even deny that they are grieving because they were expecting the death. It can take weeks or even months for the grief to surface.
3. Grief can cause stress which can weaken the immune system. Make sure your loved one is going to the doctor for checkups.
4. Find time for meaningful conversations. Many times, those that visit elderly friends and relatives are busy and don’t have time to do much more than check in on them. But setting aside some time for meaningful conversations during a visit can go a long way.
5. Help them stay involved. Find other services to come to them if they can’t get out. There are many services that can come into an elderly person’s home to support them or services that can come pick them up to take them to social events.
6. Seek outside help. If your loved one seems depressed or is having a hard time coping beyond what you can provide, it might be good to encourage them to find support from a therapist.
The important thing to remember is to continue to reach out to the elderly and to help them stay connected to their friends, family and community.