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Supporting the elderly with loss and grief

As the heart-breaking news came in last week of the Her Majesty the Queen’s death, many people in your care may be deeply affected by this news. Especially since the Queen was there throughout their whole life. Loss and grief are hard to deal with at any age, with emotional and physical drains taking a toll but these can be particularly hard on elderly people.

Understanding Grief

The physical and emotional implications of grief can be much worse in old age. When supporting your elderly service users during periods of grief keep the following in mind:

  • They may lose their appetite: Grief can make people’s appetite go, people may feel unable to eat for a few days or only pick at their food.
  • Grief can affect their ability to think clearly: Bereavement can lead to periods of confusion for people of all ages, but this can be more intense for the elderly, including forgetfulness, disorientation and disorganisation.
  • They may feel isolated and lonely: Loneliness can be a big problem for the elderly. Losing a friend, partner or relative may mean losing someone to socialise with. The loneliness of having no one to talk to can make grief much harder to cope with in old age.
  • Grief may have an impact on their physical health: Grief can have physical symptoms at any age, the elderly are more likely to suffer from severe health problems after the death of a loved one, due to increased stress levels.
  • Losing interest in hobbies

Tips for supporting the elderly with loss and grief

Spend time with them

One of the best things you can do for a grieving elderly person is to be there for them and spend time with them. Simple things just having a cup of tea or watching TV with them can help.

Listen- and let them express their grief

It’s important to let someone know it is okay to grieve and mourn. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen to them especially if you don’t know what to say. Often an ear to listen is more valuable than words.

Help keep their mind busy

Keep reminding them of the positive things going on in their life and the world to keep their mind busy. Loss and grief do not have to be the focus of all the conversations. Try taking them out for the day to do something nice but let them decide when they want to go.

Avoid Judgement

Everyone deals with loss differently. Some people can openly talk about their feelings, whereas others may withdraw and not want to express their emotions publicly. Allow everyone to grieve how they do without judgement, even if it means they distract themselves by doing something that makes them feel better.

Keep supporting them in the long run

Helping them up to and around the funeral is important but make sure you continue to support people in the months after as this is when they can struggle. Especially if there are key dates that come up, such as birthdays or anniversaries.

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