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Helping older people adapt to loss

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We all have to adapt to loss at some point in our lives.

As an older person, a number of factors can come together to change the nature of this process.

But, with care, love and support, you can guide your loved one through the process of adapting to loss.

Why can loss be felt differently by older people?

There are many reasons why older people may feel the loss of a friend or relative differently.

The very nature of ageing changes how loss is perceived, while conditions such as dementia can also pose additional challenges.

Ageing

Many of our friendships and strongest family relations are established during our younger years.

The person they've lost might well have been a fixture in their life for decades, in which countless experiences may have been shared and cherished memories created.

Over time, their network of friends and family – especially those living locally – is likely to decrease. As such, they might attach even greater importance to the relationship than they would have done otherwise.

The passing of a loved one is, of course, also a reminder of one's own mortality.

Medical conditions

Adapting to loss can be even more challenging when medical conditions are taken into account.

For example, a less mobile older person may have been physically reliant on the person they've lost to help keep the home in order, cook meals or get around.

Dementia and other cognitive conditions can disrupt the usual grieving process. A person with this condition may not have the capacity to resolve or come to terms with their grief.

They may not always consistently remember what has happened, and could also have difficulty expressing the emotions they're trying to process.

How to support an older person as they adapt to loss

Despite these additional challenges, there are many steps you can take to help support your loved one as they come to terms with loss.

Emotional support

Grief comes with a host of secondary emotions, including:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Loneliness

Try to recognise emotional distress and take steps to calm your loved one's feelings. Often, just spending time with your loved one can be worth a lot, even if it's just for a cup of tea and a chat.

Be led by your loved one in reminiscing about the person they've lost. Talk about the good times, look at photo albums, listen to music or help them visit old friends and places.

Practical support

Offer to help out around the home with tasks like cooking or shopping to lighten their load.

Encourage them to keep eating regularly, and to continue attending all their medical appointments as normal.

Make sure they've still got the income they need to support themselves, and offer to help with any outstanding paperwork.

When things have started to settle, think about taking them for a day out. A change of scenery could provide some welcome relief.

Learning to adapt to loss is difficult at any age. But, with compassionate care and attention, you can help to make sure your loved one is properly supported through this process.

Learn more about how The Good Care Group can help older people adapt to life after loss by contacting our team.

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