Elder Care Issues

Advice on tackling common health care issues affecting the senior population and resources to turn to for help.

How To Help Someone Who Is Grieving

Education Center, Elder Care Issues

If you have a friend or loved one who is grieving, it can be difficult to figure out how to bring them comfort. Your actions and words do matter. The smallest gestures can make a profound difference to someone in the grieving process. Although grieving takes time and there’s no way to speed the recovery process, here are some ways to be supportive, courtesy of Harvard Medical School’s HEALTHbeat.

Name names. Don’t be afraid to mention the deceased. It won’t make your friend any sadder, although it may prompt tears. It’s terrible to feel that someone you love must forever be expunged from memory and conversation. Saying how much you’ll miss the person is much better than the perfunctory, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Don’t ask, “How are you?” The answer is obvious—”not good”—and because it’s the same greeting you would offer anyone, it doesn’t acknowledge that your friend has suffered a devastating loss. Instead try, “How are you feeling today?”

Offer hope. People who have gone through grieving often remember that it is the person who offered reassuring hope, the certainty that things will get better, who helped them make the gradual passage from pain to a renewed sense of life. Be careful, though, about being too glib, as doing so may make the bereaved person feel even more isolated. Rather, say something like: “You will grieve for as long as you need to, but you are a strong person, and will find your way through this.” This remark both acknowledges that there is no quick and easy solution and also affirms your confidence that things will improve.

Reach out. Call to express your sympathy. Try to steer clear of such phrases as “It’s God’s will” or “It’s for the best” unless the bereaved person says this first. Your friend or relative may need you even more after the first few weeks and months, when other people may stop calling. Check in every now and then just to say hello (you may find it helpful to put reminders on your calendar). Most bereaved people find it difficult to reach out and need others to take the initiative.

Help out. Don’t just ask if you can “do anything.” That transfers the burden to the bereaved, and he or she may be reluctant to make a request. Instead, be specific when offering help. Bring dinner over, pass on information about funeral arrangements, or answer the phone. Pitch in to clean up the kitchen. Sometimes your help is most valuable later. A lawyer might help answer questions about the estate. A handy person might button up the house as winter approaches.

Assist with meals. Provide hands-on assistance with cooking, and volunteer to help with shopping. For many bereaved persons, particularly widows and widowers, it can be a big adjustment to get accustomed to planning meals, shopping for groceries, and cooking for just one person.

Listen well instead of advising. A sympathetic ear is a wonderful thing. A friend who listens even when the same story is told with little variation is even better. Often, people work through grief and trauma by telling their story over and over. Unless you are asked for your advice, don’t be quick to offer it. Frequently, those who are grieving really wish others would just listen. It’s your understanding—not your advice—that is most sorely needed.

Avoid judgments. Your friend’s life and emotional landscape have changed enormously, possibly forever. You may wish he or she would move on, but you can’t speed the process or even ensure that it happens. Let your friend heal at the pace that feels right and in his or her own manner. “You should cry” or “It’s time to move on” aren’t really helpful directions.


Physically Active Mid-Lifers More Likely to be Active Into Old Age

Elder Care Issues, Resources for Seniors

Physically Active Mid-Lifers More Likely to be Active Into Old Age

Men who are physically active in mid-life are more likely to continue the habit into older age as well, finds a long term tracking study published in the online journal BMJ OpenPlaying sport is the physical activity most likely to stand the test of time, the findings show, prompting the researchers to suggest that encouraging early and sustained participation in sports might help people to stay active in old age. The health benefits of being physically active throughout the life course are well known, but the transition from mid-life to old age often coincides with major life events, such as retirement, when both the amount and frequency of exercise are likely to change, say the researchers. (Gray, 9/20)


Why People Become Hoarders And How To Help

Elder Care Issues, Resources for Family Caregiver
Hoarders often save extensive collections of books, magazines and newspapers. Other common items for hoarders are sentimental objects, clothing, animals and garbage.

Hoarders often save extensive collections of books, magazines and newspapers. Other common items for hoarders are sentimental objects, clothing, animals and garbage.

Hoarding disorder is defined by the drive to collect a large amount of useless or valueless items, coupled with extreme distress at the idea of throwing anything away.

Over time, this situation can render a space unhealthy or dangerous to be in, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Hoarding disorder can negatively impact someone emotionally, physically, socially and financially, and often leads to distress and disability. In addition, many hoarders cannot see that their actions are potentially harmful, and so may resist diagnosis or treatment.

About 5 percent of the world population suffers from clinical hoarding.

Symptoms tend to increase with age, but it may just be that older people are more likely to have people come into their homes and therefore be “discovered,” by visiting nurses, social service providers, etc.

People hoard for many reasons, including: sentimental value, difficulty with decision making, difficulty organizing, feelings of responsibility, need for control/perfectionism, fear of forgetting, and to fill the void created by a loss. Hoarding often stems from a desire to control the environment and how objects are used.

Risk Factors of Hoarding

Because hoarders are reluctant to seek treatment it is not clear how common hoarding is. Some of the risk factors that researchers have found, according to sageminder.com, are:

Age – Hoarding is not limited to any age, race, gender or nationality but it is believed to start in early adolescence. It typically progresses to a moderate problem when a person reaches their 20’s and 30’s, becoming a more severe problem in the 40’s and 50’s. Elderly may develop a hoarding issue due to aging factors.

Social Isolation – People who hoard are typically socially withdrawn. This can be a result of the hoarding or may be the reason for it.

Life Events – Leading a stressful life and not having the proper coping mechanisms can lead to hoarding.

Family History – Research has shown that there is a strong association between family members who are hoarders and becoming one yourself.

Alcohol Abuse – Studies have shown that about half of all hoarders have a history of alcohol dependency.

People who hoard often have personality characteristics in common, such as indecisiveness, a tendency to procrastinate or avoid, and being a perfectionist. Many hoarders experience difficulty with executive functioning. While age-related illnesses are not a primary cause of hoarding, it can be a symptom in dementia patients. Hoarding behaviors can also be seen in people suffering from OCD, depression, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury.

5 Methods to Help Senior Hoarding, according to Address Our Mess.

  1. Acknowledge the problem. Denying an issue will simply make it worse rather than make it disappear. Being honest about an issue opens up doors for help.
  2. Do your research. It is crucial to know about a problem before you can address it; hoarding is no exception. Develop an understanding of what hoarding is as well as available resources to help with hoarding.
  3. Talk with the hoarder. Sometimes the individual is unaware or even in denial of a problem. Informing the hoarder of the situation and potential dangers can help bring to light the seriousness of the matter. Discuss how to remedy the hoarding situation and develop a plan together. Refer to our Hoarding Help Do’s and Don’ts Guide to know what to do (and what to avoid) when approaching a hoarder.
  4. Find a specialized cleaning company. Not all cleaning companies are equipped to handle hoarding situations. Look for a specialized hoarding cleanup company in your area to help clear the clutter and sanitize the home.
  5. Consider a therapist. Hoarding may not be completely resolved by just the physical clean up. Combining hoarding cleaning with mental health services is a more effective solution as it will not only restore the home but also help to put a stop to continuing hoarding habits.

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