At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced what it is like to grieve the loss of someone that we love and cherish. And while older people may have had more experience dealing with losses, losing an adult child, a spouse, or even leaving one’s family home can leave the elderly devastated. If older adults don’t get the help that they need to cope with their grief, it’s highly possible for them to become depressed, and a study has shown that 10 to 15% of Australians over the age of 65 are already suffering from depression. In order to help our elderly loved ones from spiraling into depression, we must find ways to help them cope with grief and loss in positive ways.

Signs of grief in the elderly

Many older adults may not outwardly show signs of grieving, but carers and relatives should be on the lookout for physical and emotional distress. Grief can manifest in crying or even a reluctance to cry, and a change in eating habits can also be a sign of distress. Losing interest in family, friends, and hobbies is another indicator of grieving, as well as having difficulty in sleeping, concentrating, and making decisions. If your elderly loved one is experiencing any of the above, here are some ways to help cope with grief and loss.

Visit regularly

Whether your elderly loved one is living at home or in an assisted care facility, it’s important to make time to visit on a regular basis. Your visits will provide something to look forward to and will prevent the feeling of isolation. Keep your loved one updated on positive things that have been going on in the world and bring something that they may like, such as a basket of favourite food or baked goods.

Let them express their grief

Let your elderly relative or friend know that it is alright to mourn. Don’t offer to fix things or make things better—at a time like this, the best thing that anyone can do is just be there and listen. Offer your support, and keep in mind that a touch or a hug can do more to help your grieving loved one than any words.

Make them feel secure

Grieving older adults need to feel secure during this difficult time and will need the love and acceptance of family and friends. Don’t be critical if they need to escape briefly from grief—nobody can grieve all the time and they may need to do something for themselves to feel good, even just for a while. So if they want to go out and head to the mall or go for a nice walk, offer to be with them if they want company.

Helping your elderly relative or friend cope with loss is a process, and it may take some time before they can heal. But your love and support can help during this difficult time, so be there for your loved one as they try to cope with grief.

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