Grief is a hard emotion for any age. We all experience loss at some point in our lives, and as we age, those feelings of grief and loss can become more common and overwhelming. While we associate grief with the loss of a dear loved one like a partner or friend, seniors may also feel grief as a result of major life changes, sadness that certain past experiences are over, moving from a long-time residence and limited mobility to name a few. How do you know if an elderly family member is going through grief? And how can you help, if needed? In this blog, we hope to answer those questions.
Some common signs of grief include sadness and mourning, low energy, inability to sleep, loss of appetite and loss of concentration. It’s important to understand also the five stages of grief psychologists have observed. They are the following:
- Denial – the first stage of grief helps a person survive a loss. It is a normal reaction to normalize overwhelming feelings.
- Anger – another coping mechanism, anger moves the pain of grief away from the person grieving and onto anyone or anything else, including the loss itself.
- Bargaining – an attempt to control an uncontrollable situation or change the outcome and delay the pain.
- Depression – sadness and regret related to the loss.
- Acceptance – while not necessarily a return to happiness, this stage does mark a withdrawal and calm while coping with loss.
Time spent in each stage will look different for each person, and it’s vital to stay connected to your loved one. If the grief continues to worsen, depression can become prolonged. In some cases, self-neglect may become an issue. General clutter may pile up along tables, chairs, furniture or hallways. This may be extensive or relegated to certain areas. Trouble carrying out normal daily tasks and routines such as bathing, cleaning and meal prep become overwhelming. Social withdrawal is also a symptom, causing further loneliness. Constant ruminating over the loss can produce bitterness.
These feelings and behaviors are tough to navigate, but it is always good to come alongside your elderly family member when they experience them. Here’s how you can help. Make sure you reach out to them and show them you are willing to help. Don’t worry about having the perfect thing to say that gives them a breakthrough moment; seniors weighed by grief need someone who listens to them. Depression can shake confidence, so make sure you communicate that you still trust them and know they are capable. Stay away from phrases like “it could be worse,” and instead, let them know that it’s normal to feel what they’re feeling. Acknowledge their feelings without frustration or judgment. Consider some practical help like a home care service to assist with housekeeping and meal prep.
Grief can be a rough experience to see a family member navigate, especially depression and self-neglect. However, a home care service can help take of a senior who is dealing with these issues. You can utilize them to provide the practical help while you focus on being an emotional support for your loved one. A professional company with a trusted reputation, Griswold Home Care of Greater Orlando assists seniors with daily care needs such as meal prep, light housekeeping and companionship. Griswold refers specially trained and experienced caregivers who treat your loved one with dignity and respect. Contact them to learn more today.