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How can you support an older loved one after the death of a spouse or a partner?

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The grief from the loss of a partner or a spouse can last a long time. Your loved one’s moods may go back and forth, from sadness, to anger, to cheer. These swings happen less often and ease up over time, but they can last for years.

Respect the person’s grieving process, and encourage them to take care of themselves. You can:

  • Listen to them talk about the person who died.
  • Make sure they eat and sleep well, exercise, and take any medications they need.
  • Be patient. Grief can make a person forgetful and disorganized, unable to focus, and less interested in things that used to be favorite pastimes.
  • Encourage counseling -- whether with a therapist, clergy (if the person is religious), or a social worker.

Cathy Alessi, MD, internist, geriatrics specialist; past president, American Geriatrics Society.

AARP: "5 Surprising Truths About Grief."

American Hospice Foundation: "Helping a Grieving Parent."

Bisconti, T. , 2004. The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences

The Kent Center for Human & Organizational Development: "Holmes Stress Point Scale."

Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, director, Gerontology Center, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Western Region Geriatric Care Management: "Older Driver Safety Awareness."

Windsor, T. , September 2006. Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging

CDC: “Important Facts About Falls,” “Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults.”

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on May 26, 2019

Cathy Alessi, MD, internist, geriatrics specialist; past president, American Geriatrics Society.

AARP: "5 Surprising Truths About Grief."

American Hospice Foundation: "Helping a Grieving Parent."

Bisconti, T. , 2004. The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences

The Kent Center for Human & Organizational Development: "Holmes Stress Point Scale."

Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, director, Gerontology Center, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Western Region Geriatric Care Management: "Older Driver Safety Awareness."

Windsor, T. , September 2006. Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging

CDC: “Important Facts About Falls,” “Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults.”

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on May 26, 2019

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How can you help an older loved one manage grief?

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