May 21, 2011
The death of a spouse can throw an older adult into turmoil and leave family members wondering how to help. According to senior care experts, providing ideas for activities, encouragement and support are the best ways to help a grieving loved one cope.
Q. Since mom died last year at age 77, dad has been at loose ends. He never seems to know how to fill his time, particularly on weekends. How can I help him become more active?
The death of a loved one is among the most devastating losses in life, and it will take your father time to adjust to his new circumstances. He won't have to look far, though, to find people who have picked up the pieces of their shattered lives and moved on to find happiness. Until he's able to work through his grief, though, it's great that you are willing to help.
Your dad could benefit by establishing a routine in his life. Start by sitting down with your father and discussing the activities he enjoyed before your mom died. Find out which of those he would like to continue, perhaps with a friend or companion. Also, investigate new ideas and identify people who could join him in these pursuits.
As you develop a plan, begin with meals, which are among the most important events of the day for many older adults. The widowed often tell us they dread mealtimes alone. Would your dad go to a senior center each day for lunch? If so, he would make many new friends.
In the evenings, encourage him to call neighbors, friends or other relatives to plan special nights out. If you live nearby, help him organize these events, if he's willing.
Most organizations or small groups of older adults make socializing and mealtime outings a regular part of their festivities. Although it may be difficult at first, there's no reason he couldn't enjoy his favorite hobbies again, even those activities that included your mother.
Here's another thought: Why not consider hiring a professional caregiver who could accompany your dad to different events or even just spend time at home with him, assist around the house and join him for meals. Many of Home Instead's CAREGiversSM, both men and women, are widowed seniors like your dad. Together they could help fill the hours of each day with companionship and fun.
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