How To Help Seniors When They Lose Their Spouse

While some people crave change in their life, some changes are too challenging to handle alone. One of these is the death of a spouse. Suddenly, a loved one and best friend is lost forever.

But when the surviving spouse is in their senior years, this change can be absolutely devastating. Chances are, they lived with their spouse for so many years that they don’t know how to function on their own. That’s where you can help. The survivor needs someone to help guide them in the coming weeks and months so they can learn to live without their loved one.

Before you can support the senior, it pays to understand what they may be going through.

Coping With Grief

With the death of a spouse, most people go through the five stages of grief. The Laureate Group explains these five stages as:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Although many seniors go through these stages in that order, this is not a guarantee. The senior you’re trying to help can start with depression, move onto anger, and then denial.

The key is to help the senior reach acceptance. You can do this by letting the senior experience the stages and the emotions they bring. Negative emotions need to be processed in order for the senior to move on; fighting them will only delay acceptance.

To help during these negative emotions, encourage the senior to keep up their relationships with friends and family. This can help the senior talk out their problems to more than just you. You should also help the senior stay physically healthy through exercise and doctor’s appointments, since illness can make grief much harder to handle.

Why Downsizing Is Helpful

As the senior goes through the stages of grief, they will need to make changes in their life. They lost their partner in many senses, which is why many seniors in this position can benefit from downsizing.

Downsizing is when the senior moves to a smaller home. This way, they can save money on housing costs and utility bills while also feeling safer at home. If they’re currently living in a big, old house, downsizing to a smaller one will be easier to clean, maintain, and get around in. And since their spouse passed away, changing locations can help them progress through their loneliness and grief.

First, you need to help the senior navigate through their housing choices. While cost may make some unavailable, they need to decide between a smaller house, a condo, an apartment, or even a retirement community. Then you can search online for available homes and present some of the best ones to the senior.

Once a new home is picked out, the senior will need some help downsizing their possessions. After all, they cannot move into a smaller home with the same stuff. This can be a time to remove some of the spouse’s belongings to help the senior move forward.


Is A Senior Community A Good Choice?

One choice for downsizing is a senior community. These can range from age-restricted housing developments to assisted living facilities. Are these a good idea for the senior?

To answer that, take a senior on a tour of a nearby community. A Place For Mom has an excellent list of tips for touring senior communities, such as:

  • Look to see how clean the place is.
  • Visit during an activity so the senior can see what the place can offer.
  • Ask to eat a meal there to evaluate the food’s taste and healthiness.

You Can Help The Senior

Losing a spouse is incredibly hard on a senior. You can help by letting them go through the five stages of grief while also being there when needed. You should also explore downsizing to a smaller home, including one in a senior community. This way, the senior can learn to live without their best friend.


-Jackie Waters
Guest Writer

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