Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Bereavement Complications in the Elderly | How to Help a Loved One Recover

Contributed by Jim Vogel

According to Mayo Clinic staff, grief can take a toll on your physical and mental health as well as your social life. Senior citizens may have more trouble recovering from complications associated with bereavement. Approximately 20 percent of the 20 million widows in the United States suffer long-term effects after losing a spouse. These include depression, diminished immune system, sudden disinterest in friends and family, and drug and alcohol use.

Symptoms of grief

It can take up to four years for a senior to fully recover from the loss of a lifelong partner. Signs that grief has lingered or has expanded beyond healthy levels include:

      Pain and sorrow when thinking of a loved one
      Inability to focus on events not surrounding the death
      Persistent pining for the deceased
      Numbness and detachment
      Inability to trust others
      Unwillingness to partake in positive experiences with surviving friends and family
      Failure to fully accept the loss

Without treatment, grief may lead to life-changing problems including:

      Anxiety
      Depression
      Fixation on suicide
      Elevated risk of physical illness including high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease
      Insomnia
      Substance abuse
      Unhealthy habits including cigarette smoking and alcohol use
      Weight loss/weight gain
      Intense feeling of hopelessness


New life after death

People over the age of 60 are typically comfortable with their lifestyle and daily routine. The death of a spouse completely interrupts this rhythm. As a caregiver, one of your primary goals is to help your loved one find a new normal. It isn’t easy but it is possible. Widow and Sixty+Me contributor Yvonne Broady lost her husband to stage IV cancer after decades of marriage. She suggests counseling, whether individual or in a group setting -- you can set the sessions up for your loved one if they are willing. Help them remain connected with friends and family and to define new goals for themselves.
Another way to help ease the grieving process is to honor the loved one’s spouse. Suggestions that you can offer include raising money for a charity that their spouse supported, or turning their shirts into a quilt.

One of the most important things you can do for an elderly family member after the loss of a spouse is to give them your time. Like anyone else, the elderly need a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear to help validate their emotions. Additionally, you can encourage positive behaviors such as maintaining an active lifestyle, eating plenty of nutritious foods, and remaining current on health screenings and immunizations.

Alzheimer’s sufferers and grief

The way seniors with Alzheimer’s grieve can be particularly challenging, because their emotions may vary day by day, and they may forget that their loved one has passed away. Therefore, caregivers often struggle with communicating about death to seniors with this disease. Caregivers must understand that every individual with Alzheimer’s Disease is unique based on the progression of the disease and the senior’s own personality and behavior. Fortunately, Neptune Society released a comprehensive list of resources that detail the stages of grief and suggest ways to guide seniors with Alzheimer’s through the process.

Drug abuse and seniors

Bonnie S. Wiese, MD, MA, FRCPC authored a white paper published in the BC Medical Journal in 2011 citing depression as the most common mental health problem in the elderly. It is well accepted that depression may lead to drug use and abuse, regardless of an individual’s age. Geriatric substance abuse is an increasingly common problem in the United States with abusing seniors preferring alcohol, cannabis, and prescription medications to quell their emotional upheaval. The Clinics in Geriatric Medicine report that a growing population of baby boomers turning 65 in recent years has given rise to higher numbers of seniors turning to alcohol and other drugs.

Seniors leaning on alcohol or drugs may exhibit many of the same symptoms as younger people. These include:

      Increased aggression
      Personality changes
      Constant lethargy
      Financial problems/sudden mismanagement of money
      Lying to their doctor about pain
      Receiving prescriptions from multiple physicians
      Abrupt weight changes
      Unwillingness to discuss drug use


If you suspect a parent or elderly loved one of using or abusing drugs, it’s important to open up a frank conversation without passing judgment. Remind them they are not alone and seek the services of a certified drug treatment center or a mental health clinic. The loss of a spouse does not have to be the end of the surviving partner’s life. With help, understanding, and a continuing network of care, your loved one can continue to lead a healthy, active, and productive life.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Quick and Easy Guide to Healthy Senior Living


Contributed by Jim Vogel

 

As a senior, your wellness needs are not what they were 20 years ago. You may find that you need to see your doctor more often, or that you have trouble hearing and seeing clearly. These are usually a normal part of aging, and you are not necessarily bound to effects of change. There are things you can do in all aspects of your wellbeing that make life easier.

 

Safety

 

When you plan to remain in your own home, you may need to make a few modifications that increase your safety, efficiency, and comfort. Fortunately, technology has made this possible, and with a minimal investment, you can add smart home features that enhance your lifestyle. Security technology, such as smart doorbells that offer visual cues when someone is at the front door, is an excellent addition for seniors with visual impairments. You can also use technology to check on your property when you are not home. HomeAdvisor has written extensively about the benefits of budget-friendly smart home technology and how it can improve your life as a senior.

 

Medical

 

Healthcare costs continue to rise with each passing year. Unless you have a substantial amount of money in your savings account, one significant health event, such as a heart attack or diabetes diagnosis, can impact your finances. Take the time each year to visit your primary doctor for a physical. This can help identify issues well before they become a problem.

 

If you have yet to choose a Medicare plan or if you think you may change your coverage during open enrollment this fall, it’s a good idea to start looking at options now. Visit Medicare.gov for advice on the seven things to consider when choosing Medicare coverage.

 

Exercise

 

Exercise remains important throughout your lifetime. If you suffer from arthritis, exercise can help ease the pain. According to Summit Medical Group, there are many benefits of exercise, including increased bone mass and improved balance, both of which help to reduce strain on the joints.

 

Before you begin any exercise routine, consider your abilities and lifestyle. For example, if it’s difficult for you to be outside for an extended amount of time, there are ways to work your body indoors. Activities such as watching fitness videos, creating your own home gym, or taking a stroll through the local mall with friends are all fun, effective options.

 

Diet

 

Many seniors mistakenly believe that they need fewer nutrients with age. This isn’t true, and some physicians believe that seniors need a higher intake of certain vitamins with age. Make your diet a top priority, and do your best to stick with conventional wisdom when it comes to what you put on your plate.

 

If you find your appetite shifting away from fare you used to love, there are plenty of culinary options to choose from. Even if you’ve never liked salmon, for example, you may find you enjoy it now, so don’t be afraid to try new recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

 

Socialization

 

One thing you may have noticed with age is that your social group has dwindled. But maintaining a healthy and active social life will enhance your golden years, and may even keep loneliness and isolation, which are both dangerous to seniors, at bay.

 

Consider spending one or two days each week at your local senior center. If you are comfortable with technology, you can always check Meetup.com for senior groups in your area.

 

Sleep

 

As you age, it is not uncommon to spend more time in bed, but less time resting comfortably. Stress, depression, and illness can keep you tossing and turning. Further, if you have back or neck pain, it can be exponentially difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. Cognitive decline and the normal dying off of neurons within the brain can all make it that much harder to sleep well throughout the night.

 

Sleep remains essential to your health throughout your lifetime, and it pays to know all you can about sleeping well. This senior sleep guide by Tuck is a wealth of information.

 

You can’t stop the aging process. What you can do is meet it head on by making changes to your life and habits that help you remain happy, healthy, and well.
 
 
Image via Pixabay



When Jim Vogel became a caregiver for his aging parents, he was inspired to promote senior health and information. His goal is to highlight ways in which people can give seniors support to thrive throughout their golden years.