Kelley Smith at CarePartners Senior Living joins Suzanne to talk about grief. With the loss of a loved one, Kelley talks about how to support those who are in the grieving process.
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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 answers for elders radio network with Kelly Smith, vice president of marketing and sales for care partners senior living, and Kelly and I are talking about the big Gyah, as we would say, grief, Um, dealing with the loss, dealing with Um, the loss of a loved one. How, and we’re going to talk this segment and a little bit about how do we support those that are in the grief process? Sometimes they feel like they can’t talk about it, sometimes they feel like they are, you know, they just want to cocoon in their life or they don’t even reach out to you, Um. But if it’s somebody that you love and you care about, I think sometimes times we need to be proactive and we need to take initiative and I’m hoping that we are going to talk a little it about some of these things that we can do. So, Kelly, welcome back. Thank you, it’s good to be here. So you have talked a little bit about people, you know, how they can support others, um in the grief process. What, I guess the per per first thing is is that we’ve all gone through grief in our lives, but at varying degrees, and obviously a senior most likely has seen a lot of different scenarios in their age. Because of that, they’ve they’ve and they may have lost a long time spouse of fifty, sixty years. I can only imagine. Is that right? Absolutely, and you have to remember that for grief for an elderly person, you know, we we have to take in mind what what all that entails, because it also means a change in lifestyle. It can and you’ve got concerned children that have lives of their own and everybody’s trying to tell you what you should do, and they do that whether again, it doesn’t matter. Your family is always gonna, you know, have an opinion about what your next step should be. And what I’m gonna tell you, guys, from actual experience is there’s a whole other way to handle this Um and and I think again, one of the things you have to do is you need to be hone in your listening skills pay attention to what mom really needs. You know, again, we talked about lots of times people think, well, this would be a good opportunity for mom to move to a retirement community and get that house off her hands. Well, okay, are you actually projecting how you feel about mom’s house or you know, or or is this reality? The only time I would ever recommend in all honesty that somebody try to remove somebody from the family home after death is if that person has to mention their danger to themselves alone, that say mom has arthritis and you can’t do the law and we’ll let me ask you something. If you don’t have time to do it, can your family pony up two hundred bucks a month have somebody come mower lawn everybody? You know, solve the problem instead of trying to erase the problem. And there’s a reason people want to stay in their home. You know, a month later I’m still finding love notes. Yeah, you reach in a pocket of a sweater they used to wear and there’s the tissue that they had. They come back to you in bits and pieces. Now you’ve got fifty years of this in a home you’ve been in for forty and your kids are trying to talk you into moving. The children don’t understand that maybe once or twice a week that person, in a bit or a piece somewhere comes back to you. So why are you going to remove mom from that? Exactly? It’s not. I mean it’s a process problem. Get Ahold of her friends, her support group, her if she has a church, a bridge club? Who who does she have in her life? That is her support group. Maybe you get them all together and come over and say, you know what, we’re here to organize and clean, but we’re only gonna do what you say. We’re here to support you. Today, if you’re worried about MOM’s house, somebody can come over and run a vacuum cleaner. You don’t have to move mom out of her memories until she’s ready, and when she’s ready she’ll make that decision and it will be okay for everyone at that time. But you also have to understand what she’s dealing with. And again a lot of times after a funeral, so everybody kind of goes back to their own lives. You might call mom a couple of times a week and check on her Um, but are you stopping in? Yeah, you know, we had a gentleman that moved into our mount like terrorist community and his wife passed away after a couple of years and all he ever wanted in the hallway was a hug. Oh, yes, it’s all they wanted. He just he missed that connection. Now, could we replace Shirley’s hugs? God, no, absolutely not. But could we give that Man Comfort? And the answers yes, because sometimes that’s all these people need is just somebody to let them know they still matter. Yeah, you when you lose a spouse, I don’t think people understand, especially when they were closed. I’ve never seen anybody take better care of their spouse than that lovely man did to his wife. And yeah, it was really hard on him. And so what do you do? And it wasn’t just me, it was the whole community. Would give him hugs and hold his hand and see how he’s doing. A checkline and I felt like he got a lot of love the last year of his life from people who didn’t even really know him that well. You knowely knew what he needed because they paid attention. And this is what I’m saying to families. Stop in, even if you’ve got five minutes. Drive by MOM’s house, knock on the door, hugger and leave. You don’t have to stay for two hours. You know sends it over to her house just because you’re thinking about her, let her know she still matters. People need to have purpose and our elderly folks are already suffering from that. Are you inviting them to the things the kids are doing at school? Are you still keeping them in the loop with family stuff? Are you calling to gossip? Guess what I heard about you know cousin Luba. You’re not going to believe this. I mean share with them the things that are happening in their life and remember there’s a hole that’s missing and something’s going to have to fill that. That’s never replaceable, but something’s got to give them again a reason and just because of an assistant living community. Don’t assume that they’ve got plenty of friends and plenty of things to do and they’re oh, they’re so occupied. They still miss that family connection. A matter of fact, you’re probably mindful of the fact that they might even be isolating themselves in their grief and you know, your job might be to help encourage them to come out and, you know, be part of the community, and I know that’s so important. I know when I lost my father. I have told this story several times, but when I lost my dad Um, I was active. I sang in choired of the sound at the time and so I remember, Um, I was just on so over. Well, I couldn’t. I couldn’t memory wherese all this music, that we had this big concert coming up and I was going like, oh my gosh, I just can’t do it, and so I just hunkered down. It was too much and the director, the director, called me, which I was blown away. Suzanne, you’ve been gone the last two things, two sessions. I understand you lost your dad and I just want you to know that this is a time when you know when we’re here for you and I want you to show up when I don’t want you to pressure yourself. And he told me, even if you can sing only one song, it’s okay, you’re here to be supported, and I’ll never forget how much that meant to me because all of a sudden I had this community and they all put their arms around me and they were there and we did. Believe it or not, there was a song that we did because it was our concert and it was one of my dad’s signature songs that I always played on the piano, and I was standing there in the middle of reformers just bawling my eyes out. No, it was okay, you know, and it was okay. So the idea is, obviously, can we be creative and and find ways to make connection acceptable and okay? And I think that’s the thing that I hope that we can get from this conversation. Well, exactly, it’s like, for example, we’ve had people moving in that lost a spouse that had dementia. Do you know how many places we’ve taken people from because a gentleman was wrongly UM labeled? Yeah, because he’s confused. He’s looking for the connection he had with this woman who’s no longer there. And he’s not a sexual Predator, he’s just a lonely old man who wants somebody to hug him and his hand. Why aren’t we hugging this man and holding his hand? Why? Why are we withdrawing affection and and things for people just because they’re not? He’s not my grandfather and and you know again, what are doing to support people? And instead of giving them behaviors and and and picking on them, why don’t we find out why they’re acting the way they are and what we can do to give them the comfort they’re looking for? Well, and I think that goes back to, you know, with your residents, you really do a deep dive on what their passions are, what they’re interested in, Um, you know, the things that they love to do, because to be you know, to be creative and find ways to to create that connection. You know, you could do that through an activity, you could do that through a country drive, you could go look at the autumn leaves, you could find Um, you know, therapy, Doz and and UH. There’s different ways in which we can um, work together as a community and I and I love the fact that we’re talking about this because I think a lot of people would love to be there for their loved ones, but they don’t necessary they know how to do that. Yeah, yeah, and so that’s you know, that’s it. Um. And again, they can also get ahold of the communities. If Mom and dad are in an assistant living community, you can get ahold of that activities director to and kind of find out what kind of things was mom into before? How can we get her back involved? How can I help? What can we do? Um, sometimes even just showing up for an activity in the building to encourage mom to come to the first one might be what she needs. Um. But again, you know, and like you said, that deep down conversation with these families too, we also want to notice mom. Want to talk about dad. If we bring up certain things, is that gonna hurt her feelings? When was their anniversary? But she appreciate it if we sent flowers. I mean tell us, tell us how to handle this, because again, you want to make sure you’re also doing the right thing and not causing more stress. Um. But again, these families being able to share with us, you know, even stories about their mom and dad and things that help us connect to these folks even more. Um, because again, grief becomes maybe there’s an opportunity to to journal. Maybe there’s an opportunity to do a podcast about, you know, remembering Wanda or whatever that is. We could tell stories, Um, get on a zoom call and bring the family members together and talk about it. Where do no matter where they lived, so that they always have that record, they can always pull that up and they can they can have that family memory. And there’s also, if you’re not sure how to start, there’s also a lot of good books out there that are actually interactive books. You can sit down and you can ask small questions and fill them out. Um. You know, if there’s things you guys want to know about your family history and things like this, Um, you know, and their stories. You know there’s things that I still don’t know about my parents. They’ve been married fifty seven years. Do you think we know everything? Absolutely not. Um. And so you know, there’s there’s stories that maybe mom wants to share with their kids. Um, things that people might want to know about that loved one. And what if you shut them down every time they want to talk because your feelings are hurt because you lost your dad? You know, that’s the other thing is sometimes we gotta put ourselves in that other person’s shoes and realize that they’re talking about this is because they need to. Yeah, and we are going to be right back everyone, 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.
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Founder and CEO of Answers for Elders, Inc., Suzanne Newman proclaims often, “Caring for my mom was the hardest thing I ever have done, but it was also my greatest privilege.” Following a career of over 25 years in sales, media, and marketing management, Suzanne Newman found herself on a 6-year journey caring for her mother. Her trials and tribulations as a family caregiver inspired an impassioned life mission outside of the corporate world to revolutionize the journey that so many other American families also find themselves on. In 2009, she became the founder and CEO of Answers for Elders, Inc., subsequently hosting hundreds of radio segments and podcasts, as well as authoring her first book. Suzanne and Answers for Elders, Inc. have spent 14 years, and counting, committed to helping families and seniors along their caregiving journeys by providing education, resources, and support. Each week on the Answers for Elders podcast, Suzanne is joined by vetted professional experts in over 65 categories including Health & Wellness, Life Changes, Living Options, Money, Law, and more. Suzanne lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Keith, and their two doodle dogs, Whidbey and Skagit.
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