How To Help A Senior Whose Spouse Has Passed AwayThe Alzheimer's Site
Guest Post by Jackie Waters
A successful marriage takes a lot of cooperation, sharing, and trust. Many couples split household duties, such as one person handling the bills while the other does the housekeeping. So when one person passes away, the other is left missing a lot more than a loved spouse — they miss a partner in the true sense of the word.
When a senior loses a spouse, things get even worse. That’s because someone who is elderly has probably had decades to get comfortable with that other person. A change this drastic can be very hard to get through.
That’s when people like you need to step up and help. This is not an insurmountable task, though. This is something you can definitely help with.
Here are some tips.
Challenges Facing The Surviving Spouse
The biggest challenge facing a widow/widower is most likely depression. It only makes sense. Not only have they lost someone they loved, but that person helped them get through life. This can be literal help such as cooking, car repairs, paying bills, and so on. But it can also mean a sympathetic ear, a warm embrace, and more.
Next to depression comes loneliness. Chances are, this elderly couple has watched their children grow up and move out. That’s a normal part of life, but it made the widow/widower even more dependent on their spouse.
Bereavement following the loss of a spouse is more than just a mental health issue. A study has shown that a senior’s immune system begins to weaken in these cases. The grief literally makes them sick and can explain why so many seniors die after losing their spouse.
Getting Their Home In Order
Most couples share the load when it comes to taking care of their home. Even if they trade off duties like cleaning, cooking, and paying the bills, this is one daily reminder of their loss. That means helping here can do a world of good, as the senior can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.
Hiring a housekeeper is a great example. You don’t have to have a housekeeper come every day, but getting some help with cleaning the floors, doing laundry and clearing walkways of objects that may cause a fall can be a huge relief for a widow/widower. You may consider hiring a handyman knowledgeable in disability accommodations if you’re concerned with the senior’s safety. He or she can make room-by-room accommodations to the senior’s home to minimize risk of injury and increase your peace of mind. Other ideas include making sure essentials like medicine and groceries are delivered regularly and making sure the neighbors understand what’s going on. Having someone next door to look in on the widow/widower from time to time can be incredibly helpful.
Going Out Again Helps
One of the worst things the new widow/widower can do is to stay at home all the time. Humans are social creatures, and while it may not be time to find a new romantic partner, getting out and having some kind of social life is vital.
The key is to find out what the senior likes to do, then find other seniors that share those interests. Do they love board games? Find a board game group online or at a local senior center. Is knitting more their thing? Visit the local fabric store and ask if there are any knitting groups that meet there.
This is also a good time to take a hard look at the senior’s current friendships. Are there any toxic people in their lives? Which friends are closest and that can be counted on? Sometimes, it even helps to go make new friends since they won’t remind the widow of their spouse.
If they enjoyed travel prior to their spouse’s passing, you might suggest they go on a trip when they’re ready. Getting away from their everyday surroundings can give them a big boost and get their minds off the pain of losing their spouse. If they’re a seasoned traveler and have high mobility, they shouldn’t have any problems taking a solo trip, and in fact, there are many amazing destinations that cater to solo travelers.
It May Be Tough, But It Will Work Out
Dealing with a spouse who has passed away is never easy, no matter how old you are. But it is something to survive. It will certainly take time, but by helping with daily tasks and social activities, you can certainly help make it easier to handle.