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How can Home Care Services help a grieving family?

By Peter DiMaria

Home Helpers Home Care in Tolland, Manchester, Vernon, Longmeadow and all North Central CT/Western MA has compassionate, trained, screened and vetted caregivers to provide senior care assistance to surviving spouses when a family is grieving the loss of a loved one

This article was originally published in the Enfield Press and Longmeadow News.

Joseph and Joan grew up in the 1930s, during the recession. Right after the war, they got married. Joe served in the military, then got a good job in the insurance industry. Joan taught in the school, took care of the house and the four children.

Joe and Joan’s story is what we call the American Dream. They worked hard, bought their house in Vernon (CT), put the children through college, saved for retirement. They made everything they could so their kids would not have to know what hardness was, as they did, growing through the depression years.

Then the kids finished college, started their own families, and developed successful careers. Some moved far away; some stayed relatively close. Joe and Joan remained in the house, with all their things and memories. They always have loved to live there. The town is nice and green, people are friendly, and they have had a good quality of life.

But then the health problems started to get in the way. Joe had a heart surgery. Then a stroke. Eventually, he didn’t make it. Now, all the family is together again, for the wake and the service in Joe’s honor. They are going through the grieving process together, and there are dozens of questions in their minds. They have so much to discuss. What to do with the house? Is mom going to be alone? Who’s going to take care of her? But Joan doesn’t want to talk about it. Nothing seems to have changed for her.

The story above, with many variations, is a common one, nowadays. As Baby Boomers are getting older, their parents are aging like nobody has ever done, before. The expectation of life is the highest ever. Connecticut has the third highest life expectancy in the country, at 80.5 years, and Massachusetts is number five, with newborns expected to live till 80.5 years old on average. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for people to live beyond the 100 years old.

Grief is a difficult time for any family, and it is particularly touching when the couple is separated by death, leaving the other one alone in the big house

Each family is different as seniors frequently have one or many health conditions like movement impairment, arthritis, heart disease, or dementia. At Home Helpers, we have experience going through this process with the families we serve, and we are prepared to deal with it.

First, it is important not to rush to decisions. Take your time to grief. The grievance is an important stage as any in the family. If not taken with consequence, it will make things more difficult. It is important to recognize the seven stages of grief, understand and live them. This way, you, as a family, will be ready to discuss important issues and make decisions together, when the time is right for everyone.

Individuals do not necessarily go through all these stages in order, and they may repeat stages. The grief process is unique to the individual

  1. Shock: There is disbelief that the loss has occurred.
  2. Denial: Denial is a temporary buffer after the unexpected news. The person refuses to accept the loss has occurred. Denial is encouraged by silence.
  3. Anger: Anger may be directed toward the loss; the people lost, or even a deity. Families have a hard time with anger because the anger is displaced in all directions.
  4. Bargaining: "Let's make a deal." The person attempts to reconcile the loss by making deals with other people, sometimes also with a deity.
  5. Depression: Anger turns inward.
  6. Guilt: Statements of "If only I had done/been ..." show the existence of guilt. It usually comes from things one cannot change.
  7. Acceptance: Living in the present is possible. Acceptance and hope mean that the person understands that life will never be the same, but it will go on with meaning and hope.

Because the process is unique to each one and each family, the time it takes to go through the stages also varies from case to case. It could take weeks. It could take months. There is no way to rush it. If you try to do that, it will be like wiping the dirt under the carpet. It will still be there, and it will come out eventually. So allow yourself and your loved one to be denying, angry or depressed. Understand what is going on and cry together.

Home Helpers Home Care in Enfield (covering North Central CT) and in East Longmeadow (covering Western MA) offer support for grieving families

To help them is this process, Joan’s family hired an in-home care agency, to take care of her while they all took their time to get through the grieving and finally accept what had happened. With a home care aide in the home, Joan got help with her personal needs. Nobody in the family had any idea of how much Joe was doing for her. Her mobility was already impaired, and she needed help with many things, from preparing a meal to using the vacuum and changing light bulbs. It was also noticeable that the house was not as clean as it used to be.

With a home helper, the family was able to keep Joan safe, clean and healthy, in her own home, which is where she wanted to be, at least for the time being.

When the time came, they discussed with her about the size of the house and her limitations. Together they got to the conclusion that it was a good idea to downsize and move closer to one of the daughters. We were very honored that we could help Joan and her family in this process.

Call us for a free in-home care consultation:
(860) 698-2244 (Enfield, CT)
(413) 224-1045 (East Longmeadow, MA)