Thursday, May 31, 2012

dealing with loss

Working in a nursing home gives one the unique opportunity to see people enjoy the milestones in life that only a few ever attain..... 60th anniversaries,  95th birthdays, and four generations spending time together.  It's a joy and a privilege to be a part of.

There are times though that are not so joyous.  I'm not talking about an individuals own illnesses, although those can be heart breaking enough.  I'm talking about when someone has lived so long that they have to experience their children and grandchildren becoming ill and passing away.  When you are in your 90's you don't expect to live longer than your children who are in their 70's and from what I have seen you don't want to.  I think it is some of the deepest sadness I have ever seen.

I am certainly not an expert on the subject but these are some of my suggestions for when an elderly person in a nursing home is losing a loved one, whether it be a spouse, child, grandchild, or best friend.

Keep the person informed, within reason.  I have seen people become so angry and hurt when they think they are not being told the truth about a difficult situation.  They haven't lived this long without going through difficulties in life.  I find that they are usually tougher than you think. 

If their loved one is in the hospital make arrangements to have the elderly person visit them if at all possible.  Of course that's if they want to.  If you can't transport them yourself hire an ambulette.

If their loved one passes away make arrangements to have the person attend the funeral if they want to.  They need to have closure too.

Lastly, let the loved one who is left behind guide the grieving process when you visit them.  If they want to talk about the one they've lost let them.  Maybe bring in some photos to look at.  Tell funny stories about the person.  Reminisce.  It's part of the healing process.

I have also seen people not want to talk about the situation.  Not want to visit.  Not want to be informed.  That's okay too.  There is no "right way" to deal with loss or a difficult situation.  It's as individualized as the people who are involved.  I think the most important part is giving the person the chance to make their own choices about how to handle the situation if they are able.

Okay, I'm getting off of my soapbox. 

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