We all have those special seniors in our lives. Whether family friends, grandparents, former teachers, or patients, they are near and dear to our hearts. That is why it is extremely painful to watch the inevitable unfold during the time of the loss of their spouse.
When so much of a person’s life is spent inside of one stable routine, any upset in that lifestyle can be dramatic- especially for an older person. All of the plans they had made regarding their future came to a sudden halt. It would be easy for them to feel the weightiness of this life change and interpret it as a loss of purpose, because they are no longer able to serve and love their spouse.
What they will need most during that season is you. They will need someone who can walk through this journey with them as a shoulder to cry on, an extra resource to call on, or just another person to spend time with. And after that initial season of mourning has subsided, there is one additional thing you can offer which could change the course of their healing and bring them hope after loss: a sense of purpose.
Feeling a sense of purpose encourages the healing process and provides a more positive outlook for the future. When a senior has something to look forward to, it lessens the risk of isolation and depression. By removing these tendencies, you also avoid the potential for substance abuse, which is quickly becoming a more common issue in the senior demographic. After loss, seniors feel a sense of hopelessness and tend to believe they don’t matter. These emotions easily lead to alcohol abuse, or overuse of prescription medications, especially for seniors with a history of addiction. Introducing a sense of purpose during the healing stages can help prevent any of these grief-related tendencies.
Purpose can look like a new hobby, a part-time job, a pet, or a new home. It can also be a series of several short-term projects that help bring a sense of achievement, affirmation, and encouragement into their life. The answers to these three simple questions can help you change a grieving senior’s life for the better. Here are the questions that help your senior find their purpose:
1. What does the senior love to do?
Is there one hobby or topic that the senior is passionate about? What do they absolutely love doing daily? Help remind the beloved senior of that special task that they can focus on. Talk about it with them and inspire them to delve in and learn more about it. Something this simple can spark a hope for their future.
2. What are the senior’s health limitations?
Does the senior have any health limitations that should be considered before they move toward a specific passion. For example, if the senior has limited vision, or muscle fatigue, they might need to focus on a passion or hobby that can be fulfilled without risking or worsening those symptoms.
3. What small steps can they take to drive them toward their goals?
Every goal has a starting point. Perhaps pay for a book or a class that will provide the insight they need for their newfound task. Go shopping with them to help pick out supplies or research a few videos online that will inspire them. They will be more likely to set out on this new adventure if they have a plan in place.
As you answer these questions with your senior, remind them of what it is like to have fulfilled, enjoyable life. Everyone should experience the feeling of being important, especially as they cope with loss. Guide your senior toward living joyfully again, one small step at a time, by helping them find their purpose.