Kelley Smith at CarePartners Senior Living has talked to Suzanne about senior dynamics and what families are going through regarding grief. This segment is about things to do, steps you can take, actions. Don’t offer advice unless they ask for it. They need someone to listen. It’s hard to be around someone who’s sad, but be nice, it’s better for them to be around people. It’s heartwarming to be invited somewhere even if you feel depressed enough not to want to get out of bed.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
The following podcast is provided by care partners living and answers for elders radio. And Welcome back everyone to the answers for elder’s radio network with Kelly Smith’s from care partner senior living, and Kelly and I are talking about grief, grief that we are doing, and we talked a little bit about family dynamics, we talked a little bit about what seniors are going through. But in this segment Kelly and I are going to talk about things to do. Um, this is about action, this is about learning about ways in which you can support those that are in the grief process. and Um, so, Kelly, tell me a little bit about what actions are most important. Well, first of all, I’m gonna tell you don’t offer advice unless you’re ask for it when somebody is going through grief. Um, a lot of times people mean well, they really do. They mean well, you should go back to church, you should invest, you you should get right, you should invest your money, you should do this, you should do that, and I’m gonna tell you right now, ZIP it. Okay, that’s not helpful. That is not helpful at all. Nobody going through the grief process wants anybody to tell them what to do. What they need is for you to just zip it and listen, okay, and let him talk. Sometimes. We’re not asking for your advice, we just need to get things off our chest and say it out loud, because we’ve been saying it out loud for the last how many years we’ve been with this person. We didn’t have a thought to ourselves. So yes, we need somebody sometimes to bounce ideas off of. It doesn’t mean they need you to come back and and and and, you know, offer to sell my house for me and have me moved and no, calm down, um. You also have to understand that, yes, it’s hard to be around somebody who’s sad all the time, but think about your who and the gang still invited him everywhere and took him everywhere with him. And your was the saddest little stuffed animal in the world, but he had friends and people who loved him. So, you know what, be nice to your okay, I know it’s hard to be around a sad person. It’s hard to be around somebody who’s devastated, but you know what, it’s better for them to be around people than not. So, even if they don’t come, I gotta tell you something. It’s it’s even it’s even heartwarming to even know you were invited, even if you don’t want to go because you can’t get out of bed that day. Well, and I think the other thing is is giving somebody permission to be absolutely where they’re at in the minute, which means sometimes I feel really crappy, you know, and other days I you know, I’m gonna get up and I’m gonna make myself do something. But there’s gonna be times, I’m sure, in everyone’s life when they’re going through grief process, where they just need space, they need you know, they need to process whatever they’re doing, especially those that are introverts. You know, if you’re an introvert, you need that alone time to kind of disconnect. It doesn’t mean that you’re gonna go off and be isolated forever, but it does mean that you need to recharge the battery by yourself. And I know I’m talking to an introvert, so as you are, and I’m very much an introvert. But what I will tell you is is that there is some comfort, you know, and and having knowing that people are there, because again, when you’re used to somebody now tied to your hip, you know, all the time, and then that’s gone. But it’s not just gone, it’s that daily purpose. Thank God I have a job I’m in love with. Um. That keeps me very busy because I can focus on that. It gives me something to do. But what if I was eighty I didn’t have a job? Yeah, but if I didn’t have something to focus on. You know, Um and and what we see a lot of are these people that really they do get depressed, it’s because, yes, they’re suffering a horrible loss. People don’t come around like they used to because they can’t handle seeing you like this. Everybody wants to fix your problems, so when they can’t fix you, you know. And so it is what it is. But you got to also under stand, too, that it’s also the fact that these people are now trying to also find new things to look forward to, new things to dream about. You know what it’s like to have somebody that you’re crazy about that died and then you get your checks in the mail two weeks later. You know, it’s it’s stuff like that and people don’t understand that unless they’ve lived through it, and you hope nobody you know, what it does to live through it. But what I’m getting at is that you have to understand too why people are acting the way they are and you’re gonna have to let them get through it. But again with parents and grandparents, again they have to have what you see a lot of in assisted living communities. A husband will die and the wife lives a lot longer. Yeah, that’s usually what happens. The wife dies, we usually lose the husband within two years, and it’s because they don’t have the same connections women do. They belong to a bridge club, they’re involved in church, they’re involved with their kids and grandkids. When the husband dies, they still have connections. A lot of times the men don’t. The only connection is really through their wife. The wife are there. v Said Right, there’s sports games, you know, they might have a few buddies they hang out with, but there, you know, most men, most happily married men, are just their their home. They kind of get home bodies. That’s my husband, right, and that’s that’s how most most people are like that. But what I’m getting at is we we tend to forget the gentleman sometimes, especially if dad was kind of quiet and he was kind of an introvert. Now is the time to really step it up, Um, if you don’t want to lose him in the next year or two, you’re gonna have to give him something, like your mom had, something to hang on to, being around the grandkids. It’s getting him involved, not just inviting him for Christmas, but giving something to do. Right. Don’t just invite him for Thanksgiving. Give him a job. All these there give him some purpose, okay, making feel like he’s really part of the family, even if it’s and even if it’s you know, we want to create an activity around the holiday gathering. Like you know, we want to do dad. We want to do a video with us and we want you to share about your time in the military and we would love what we would love, and it may not be about mom, because dad just lost mom. But you know what what we’d love to do is for you to prepare. It’s now September. Would you prepare a little bit about, you know, go through some of your information and your find your uniform and things like that, and because we’d like to really have that on film, you know, on that we have that on video so that we have something to to know about your history and what you did and how, you know, and give them enough time to prepare. It’s like, Oh, I have this this thing coming up right. Um. That’s the thing that can be really exciting is having those types of you know, the autobiography of Dad, you know, and and Um, I know another one. Maybe Dad wants to enroll gonna how to write a book and write a book. You know, maybe they’ll lever get openly published, but it’s something that you can tell your family about who you are and what you did and it gives them him a chance to relive the memories in his own way by writing his story, and obviously mom was a big part of that. I think there’s a lot of things. If we really sat down as families and figured out a way that we can bring dad out of the you know, the clouds, you know, out of the you know, the dark clouds, and bring him into a place where he can he can process his grief and in his own way. I guess that’s my point. Well, and you might even come up with maybe a new family tradition every year you guys do as a family. Maybe you all take a vacation together somewhere that mom liked to go. You know, and do some kind of family tradition. Absolutely that that’s something you guys carry on, you know, for years. Um. You know, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of positive things that can come, you know, from from from a bad experience. Um. But again, you have to remember it’s not going to be a one at all, you know, one shot fixes everything type of a deal either it’s going to be consistent. It’s got to be consistent and it’s it’s got to be something they can they can really count on again, like like when my like my mom said the hardest thing for her losing my brother. You know, he was the one that called her every day. Yeah, and you know, Um, and then, you know, after the funeral, when everybody goes back to their life, mom said that’s when the lonely really kicks in. And she still had my dad and two other kids kids on the way. But that didn’t that didn’t take that away. And so I don’t think people understand. Mom Even said that people even treated them different when they saw him in public. And that’s the other thing too. Don’t treat somebody different because they’ve they’ve gone through a loss. If you treat them like you always would have you always would have given him a hug them if you always would have been happy to see him, be happy to see him. Don’t assume they’re having a bad day. Yeah, and I think one thing that I’m thinking of when you’re talking about telephone calls. You know, pick a day like maybe you have three other siblings and an aunt or whatever, and say, you know what, I’m gonna Take Tuesdays. I’M gonna call mom every Tuesday. Um Joe, you call mom on Wednesdays. You know, Sally, you call Matt Mom on Thursdays. So now all of a sudden mom’s going to get a call from somebody in the family every single day and do that for, you know, a couple of months or maybe even longer, if you feel like mom needs it, and if it’s only to say mom, I’m just calling to tell you I love you, I care about you, how’s Your Day gone? And that’s it. There’s not anything more to do. I know how important it is for for us to remember just how important it is to Um have connection. And you know, when I go visit seniors, let’s say at you know, twelve days of goodness, they want to talk because they don’t oftentimes live alone and they don’t have anybody to talk to. So they’re going to tell you all kinds of things that you may not feel like you’re that interested in, but you listen and you realize that there’s so much that this is important to them, and I think that’s the main thing that, especially, you know, in the grief process, they may need to talk about it. Absolutely yeah. So obviously with care partners, you guys are mindful of that, of that process. Are there any like signs that you kind of get from people that they need something more? And how do you recognize that? I guess as a question. Well, anytime you have a resident that’s just had a loss, the first thing that our nurses being attention to is their eating habits. Um, you know, are we leaving a lot of food on the plate? Are we’re not coming down for meals at all? Are they starting to isolate? Somebody who was always at Bingo isn’t coming to Bengo anymore? Um, family can’t get ahold of them. Um, you have family coming in with concerns. Normally the assisted living communities catch it before the families even do we realize we’ve got a problem? Um, you might notice hygiene is starting to slip, but he was a regular bay. There’s not doing it anymore. I mean, after the loss of my loved one, I didn’t I don’t think I took a shower for three weeks, you know, because you don’t care. You just don’t care and it is what it is and people go through different stages and you know, it just is what it is. They snap out of it at some point. Something comes along that makes you decide to take a shower. But what I’m getting at is you’ve got to understand what they’re dealing with, okay, but you gotta Watch the signs. And then you have to be careful too. Yes, B B aware and be helpful without sticking your nose so far in that you make it worse. But a lot of times nurses will get involved, UM, executive directors and everybody follows up with this person know and and that’s what they can to try to draw them out a little bit for grief counseling. Um, you know, there’s a lot of agencies out there that will come in and provide help. We call families to ask for advice. Um, there’s a lot of things you can do, but a lot of times. The first thing you have to do is just sit down and listen to them. Let them get it off their chest. What are you feeling? What’s happening? How can we help you? And then follow through on what you say you’re gonna do. Don’t tell them you know I’m coming by tomorrow morning. I’m gonna get you for breakfast. I’m having breakfast with you in the dining room to get you back on their feet, and then don’t show up. You know, make sure if you’re gonna Promise these folks something, you follow through perfect and Kelly and I are going to follow up right after this. The preceding podcast was provided by care partners living and answers for elders radio. To contact care partners living, go to care partners living dot com. MHM
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Originally published September 25, 2022