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In my work with seniors, I frequently hear “all of my friends are dying” or “all of my family has passed away.” The seniors I work with have often suffered loss of parents, siblings, friends, spouses, and sometimes children.  It is easy to become lonely when so many around you have passed away, and makes it more of a reality that death could be approaching since it is a natural part of life.  Understandably, it can be quite scary to know that your support systems are gone and you are faced with life on your own.  


It is important for seniors to restore a sense of independence and purpose. Sometimes the person they lost was the one that took care of all the duties. Imagine the responsibilities in your household that have been split between you and your spouse for 50 or more years, and then imagine taking that person out of the equation.  Learning to adapt to the sudden change of duties can be extremely overwhelming.  


Building new relationships and friendships is also important, but again, something that is not always easy for a senior.  Often the person no longer has a driver’s license, drastically limiting their independence.  I hear people say that they are hesitant to start conversations with others because their hearing is not as good as it once was, making it difficult to communicate.  Health impairments also limit the ability to get out and socialize.  

Companionship and support in the comfort of one’s own home is critical.  People who have lost a loved one want the opportunity to talk about the person they lost.  It is healthy to reminisce and makes them feel good to know that someone enjoys hearing stories of the person they miss.  Seniors need the opportunity to talk about their loss and even cry.  Think about how much time is spent alone after a spouse has died; you can see how limited their opportunity is to talk about their loss.  Sometimes friends and family are hesitant to bring up the person who has passed away because they fear upsetting the person.  When I meet with a senior in their home to evaluate for services, I always give them the opportunity to tell me about their family and their losses.  They seem to find comfort in talking about them.  


When you are trying to help a loved one or a friend through their loss, remember that everyone grieves differently. The grieving process can take up to a year but the loss doesn’t ever go away, especially a loss of a spouse after so many years together.  It is important for families to spend time with their loved ones and provide comfort and support through visits and contact.  


Western Illinois Home Health Care provides personal assistants for companionship and to aide in getting a person out and about for socialization.  Our skilled nursing can be ordered if a person’s mental health is a concern after a loss. Sometimes a doctor will order a new medication to help with depression after a loss and our nurse will monitor the effectiveness of the medication.  If you or someone you know is in need of these services, please call us today at 1-800-229-5933.    


Amanda Powell, BSW is Senior Care Manager for Western Illinois Home Health Care


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Seniors Dealing with the Loss of Loved Ones

June 2014

by Amanda Powell