Dealing with Emotional Loss

senior and nurse leaning on each other

Dear Kara,

I am the primary caregiver for my aunt. She is my late-mother’s sister, and we have always been close to her. A few months ago, her husband of almost 50 years passed away unexpectedly, leaving her on her own for the first time.

Within a few weeks of his funeral, we realized she just isn’t safe living alone. She is forgetful and has a few mobility challenges that her old house just can’t accommodate.

My aunt has been staying with my family part of the time and my sister’s family the rest of the time. We know she is grieving the loss of her husband. Now we are going to have to tackle the issue of moving to an assisted living community with her. That is a lot for her to try to manage.

Do you have any advice for helping older adults cope with emotional losses?


Coping with Emotional Losses Later in Life

Dear Kristine:

It sounds like a tough time for your aunt and for your entire family! Even though you are making what sounds like a good decision for your aunt’s safety, I understand that explaining the change to her won’t be easy.

Coping with two life-changing events so close together is difficult at any age.

First, it might help to explore the bereavement services of your local hospice. Most offer one-on-one and group counseling programs for 13 months after the death of a loved one. Learning more about the grieving process might also help you and your sister support your aunt through this difficult transition.

As you begin the process of finding an assisted living community in the Columbus area, we encourage you to involve your aunt as much as possible. While it might be a good idea for you and your sister to visit communities the first time without her, once you have narrowed your choices down to two or three you think might be a good fit, involve your aunt in the final selection.

Keeping her involved in the search might help her feel as if she is still in charge of her life at a time when she is experiencing such big losses.

As you begin the conversation about moving, it is good to familiarize yourself with the benefits of an assisted living community.  The current generation of older adults often believes in stereotypes about senior living that just aren’t true. Being able to quickly and easily convey the advantages of such a move is important.

A few other tips to consider using to help your aunt through this time include:

  • Encouraging her to talk. Don’t try to “cheer her up” just listen to how she is feeling.
  • Find productive ways for your aunt to stay busy. Maybe the two of you can take a watercolor class or a knitting class together.
  • Remind her that you and your sister will still be there for her no matter where she lives. Then be sure you set up a visitation schedule so she has consistent visitors once she makes this move.

Best of luck, Kristine! Please let us know if you have any questions about assisted living communities or if you would like to schedule a time for a private tour.

Kind Regards,

Kara Thomas