When a senior loses a spouse, it can be a devastating event that’s hard to come back from. Coping with the death of a partner after a sometimes decades-long relationship can be stressful and can cause anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse. In fact, depression and substance abuse are often linked, and they almost always exacerbate one another.
Drugs and alcohol can make an individual feel in control or numb to the pain, but it’s only a temporary relief. After the effects wear off, the user will likely feel worse, and in some cases, the substance abuse can lead to a decline in physical health. Changes in sleeping and eating habits, mood swings, and sudden changes in hygiene habits are all symptoms of both depression and substance abuse. Many seniors need months or even years to feel like they can move on, and in that time they can stop taking care of themselves properly. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs of depression and create a plan for helping your loved one get through this difficult time.
For more information on how depression and substance abuse go hand in hand — and how to help your loved one — read on here.
Because one of the best ways to get through grief is to be around people who care about us, getting social and staying active and vital in the community is important for a senior who has just lost a spouse or partner.
Here are some tips to help your loved one do just that.
Get involved in the church
If your loved one is a member of a local church, help her with becoming more involved in the various organizations and functions associated with it. If she’s never been or is looking for a new church, ask if she’s interested in attending one so she can meet new people and stay social.
It might help if you offer to go, as having company always helps when trying something new.
Suggest a workout group
Daily exercise is such an important part of staying healthy and happy, and it makes a huge difference in depression symptoms. Suggest that your loved one start or join a workout group, such as meeting friends a few times a week to walk or to take a class like water aerobics. Having others to work out with can boost motivation and will allow her to get out and spend time with people she enjoys.
Find a part-time job
Many seniors find that having a part-time job helps with loneliness and keeps them active, so help your loved one look for something they can enjoy doing while earning some extra cash. Some possible jobs that are ideal for seniors include being a greeter for a retail store, taking on storytime duties at the local library, or working at the front desk for a doctor’s office.
Help with transportation
If your loved one doesn’t drive or is wary of driving, particularly at night, help her with transportation by offering a ride or by finding a local senior bus service. Many cities offer free transportation for seniors and will assist them in getting to a doctor’s appointment.
Get a pet
If your loved one doesn’t already have one, a small pet is a great companion and can help a senior get social. Dogs are wonderful motivators when it comes to getting out and they can provide an opportunity for your loved one to explore their neighborhood a bit. Dog parks are also a great way to meet new people with similar interests.
Remember to stay patient with your loved one as they go through this transitional period. It’s hard to think about moving on after the death of a spouse, so don’t push. Let your loved one go at her own pace and let her know you’re there for support.
Written by PICLIF Guest Blogger