Your elderly parents were married for 62 years until mom recently passed away after a long illness. Dad’s still living in the home they once shared, but he just hasn’t been the same since. He’s losing weight, stopped meeting his friends for coffee and never seems to smile. No matter how hard you try to cheer him up, nothing seems to work. Dad’s depressed state has reached the point you’re very concerned about his health and wellbeing. What should you do? Helping an aging parent cope with the loss of a spouse should go better when using this approach.
The Grieving Process Takes Time
In most marriages involving couples who have been together for years, each partner takes on a specific role within the household. For example, dad may not be eating right because mom used to do the grocery shopping and cooking. Not only does he feel lonely and depressed, you father has been forced to take on additional responsibilities that he may not be comfortable doing.
According to the experts, these are some of the classic signs that a widowed senior is having trouble dealing with their grief:
- Not participating in activities once enjoyed
- Noticeable weight loss
- Bills are not getting paid on time
- Not exercising like they should
- Poor grooming habits
- Not much food in the home
- Abusing drugs and/or alcohol
Although it’s not uncommon for the grieving process to take a while, if these signs haven’t gone away after several months, your loved one’s health and wellbeing can be placed at risk.
Helping a Grieving Parent Move Forward
While offering him constant love and support, here are some of the steps you can take to help ease dad through the grieving process:
Anticipate Sudden Personality Changes
As a grieving partner finds ways to fill time throughout the day, it’s not uncommon for them to suddenly engage in certain unexpected behaviors, like poor concentration, forgetfulness or being disorganized. Those sudden personality changes may stay around for a few weeks or months following a spouse’s death, so don’t be surprised if it happens to your dad. Instead, continue to provide him with the nurturing he needs.
Watch for Signs of Substance Abuse
It’s not uncommon for someone who’s been recently widowed to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications found around the home. If you suspect that dad’s abusing one or more substances, discuss the situation with his doctor.
Address His Physical and Emotional Needs
If dad’s not exercising like he should, try to encourage him to get back to the gym and spend time with his workout buddies. In addition, here are other ways to address his physical and emotional needs:
- Bring him some nutritious meals.
- Take him grocery shopping.
- Arrange for some of his friends to stop by.
- Accompany him to his doctor’s appointments.
- Find ways to help dad sleep better.
- Help him with house and yardwork.
- Convince him to take up a new hobby.
- Suggest that he speak to a clergy member or therapist.
Also Take Care of Yourself
Caring for an elderly loved one can eventually wear you down too, especially when you’ve both just lost someone who was an essential part of your lives. As a result, make sure to also take care of yourself by:
- Sleeping 7 to 8 hours per day
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Spending quality time with your spouse and children
- Getting an annual physical
- Not abusing drugs or alcohol
- Hiring an in-home respite caregiver when you start feeling worn down.
Reliable In-Home Respite Care for Seniors
Caring for an aging in place parent who’s grieving for a lost spouse is a labor of love, but it can also be exhausting and stressful. When you need time to recharge, contact Caring At Home. As a family owned and operated agency, one of our bonded and insured respite caregivers can step in and provide your loved one with the compassionate care they deserve so they can continue aging comfortably in place right where they want to be.
Our licensed in-home services include light housekeeping, meals, medication reminders, personal hygiene and companionship. And, you can always personalize a care plan based on your needs and budget! To learn why more families are placing their trust in Caring At Home, or to schedule a FREE, in-home consultation for a special senior in your life, please give us a call or visit us online today.