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How to help a grieving spouse

Senior Wellness | Jul 12, 2016

Losing a spouse can be one of the most difficult things seniors face. In order to continue living a happy and healthy life after the death of a partner, seniors must pay close attention to their own physical and mental health. However, this may be more difficult for men than woman.

As the Columbus Dispatch reported, two recent studies have found spousal bereavement can be more difficult for men to overcome than women. One study found men are more likely to develop health problems in the weeks and months after losing their wives and are more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke within the next 30 days.

Researchers from Ohio Health, speaking with the Dispatch, said men are often at an increased risk for health problems because they relied on their wives to take care of household affairs including cooking and paying bills. Taking on such tasks may feel overwhelming, especially when grieving, and can result in men not following a proper diet or missing healthcare appointments. Depression can also worsen chronic conditions, including Alzheimer's, the Dispatch found.

"Men are often at an increased risk for health problems following the death of a spouse."

How to help a grieving spouse
If you have a friend or family member who is mourning the loss of his partner, it is important to provide a support system that encourages social interaction and proper health. American Hospice Foundation advises accompanying your friend or family member to his doctor's appointment and making sure the doctor is aware of any stress or depression he is experiencing. Both these feelings can weaken the immune system and make a widower more susceptible to cold, flu and other illnesses.

The Hospice Foundation noted other common signs of depression include disorganization, anger, inattentiveness or a lack of interest or motivation. If you see any of these signs, be sure to mention it to your friend or family member's healthcare provider.

Finally, Hospice recommends being patient and understanding that overcoming grief may be a lengthy process. Be sure to reach out to any grieving widowers in your life and invite them to social events such as church, game nights or other activities. Exercise is also important so inviting a grieving spouse for a long walk or a swim can have a very positive impact on their mental health.

Knowing friends and family care can help a grieving spouse to cope with their loss and enjoy their life again.