The death of a spouse can have a dramatic and negative impact on an older adult. That’s why family caregivers should keep a close eye on a parent who has lost a spouse. A good first step is a doctor’s physical.
Often times when a spouse passes, the surviving spouse seems to have lost their social circle of friends. In addition, they may have no interest in getting out or doing much of anything. Especially if they always loved socializing when their departed spouse was alive. How can we help them to continue to have an active life?
Home Instead Senior Care asked eldercare expert and author Jacqueline Marcell to provide input to this specific situation.
Marcell suggests you first schedule an appointment with the surviving loved one’s doctor for a physical to evaluate any medical problems including depression, which is very possible from her recent loss.
Unfortunately, loss of initiative could also be an early warning sign of dementia, Marcell says.
“Nearly one of every five persons by the age of 75 gets some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and she should be tested,” she said. “Her symptoms could be a sign of depression, or dementia, or both.
“Ask your loved one’s primary care physician for a referral to a geriatric dementia specialist or geriatric neurologist, who will take the time to do all the many tests needed to uncover the earliest stage. Be aware that there are some reversible dementias that the doctor should rule out. The right doctor is the first key, and early diagnosis and treatment can slow the progression of dementia. Her doctor can then prescribe medication or the appropriate treatment for her.”
After all, her medical conditions have been properly evaluated and treated, call friends and family and ask them to pick a day of the week when they can routinely contact her. Ask them to visit as often as possible and to invite her to do things.
Look into the closest senior centers that have a variety of activities that may get her interested again.
Go with her the first few times and then have friends accompany her until she gets acclimated and makes new friends.
Or, if you want a more dependable schedule, look into hiring a companion, such as a CAREGiver from the local Home Instead Senior Care® office. The organization makes every effort to match caregivers with seniors of like interests.
Jacqueline Marcell is an author, publisher, radio host, speaker and eldercare advocate. Visit her website at www.elderrage.com.
Healing will take time
Picking up the pieces after the death of a spouse can take time. But when older adults are ready, encourage them to rejoin the world with their time and talents. Getting one’s life somewhat settled after the death of a spouse takes time, but there comes a time when you need to think about joining the world again.
Anyone in this situation will benefit greatly by companionship. And there are various ways to do that. Did you have any hobbies that you enjoyed before your spouse passed away? If so, consider resuming those hobbies with a friend or relative.
For instance, if you liked to read or knit, make an effort to do that by calling someone you know who might enjoy those activities with you. If you don’t know anyone, call a local bookstore or fabric shop and they will put you in touch with clubs or groups of people who like those same pastimes.
Do you enjoy cards or board games? A senior center can offer a variety of activities, along with regular meals that you can share with others. Why not check it out? In addition, call your local Area Agency on Aging to find out what other programs are available to seniors in your community. There may be activities and organizations that you have no idea existed that might appeal to your interests.
The main goal is to start enjoying contact with others again so that your loneliness will begin to diminish and you will feel reconnected to the world. Many volunteer opportunities also exist.
If you like children, why not try calling an area school. Many schools are looking for surrogate grandparents or other volunteers who can read to children or be a mentor to them for other activities. What about an area homeless shelter, women’s home or day care? Many would be more than happy to have an extra set of hands, even for a few hours a week.
You could also consider part-time employment as a companion or a caregiver. The local Home Instead Senior Care hires many seniors who serve as caregivers to other older adults, helping them around the house and accompanying them on activities.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.