When Your Father Is a Widower: How Home Care Can Help a Senior Dad Maintain Independence


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Losing a loved one is never easy. It’s especially difficult if you’ve lived with the person for decades, and they’ve become a part of your everyday existence. You can’t imagine being without them, and you wonder how to get by – both emotionally, and in terms of maintaining your routine.
Unfortunately, for many older widowers, this is an all-too-common scenario. To complicate matters, men tend to cope with a partner’s passing less successfully than women. As such, this population often has unique needs, and may require needs special assistance meeting the challenges of aging without their spouse.
But like the majority of older adults, your senior dad probably wants to maintain his independence – even if his spouse is gone. It may bring him comfort and a sense of control to continue his routines and stay in his home. Fortunately, there are a number of ways home care can make this happen.

Help around the house (and beyond)

If the division of labor around the house was traditional, your senior dad might need help with things like cooking and cleaning. A home health aide can do light housekeeping and meal preparation either with your dad, or on his behalf. And although many older adults are reluctant to give up their driver’s licenses, an aide can also provide transportation using their vehicle or your dad’s. This makes getting to and from appointments and errands a snap, possibly delaying or preventing long-term care placement.

Help with medical needs

If your dad’s spouse was the one providing medication reminders (I know this was certainly true with my grandparents!), there’s a type of home care for that too. It involves a home health aide providing the reminders, or a nurse coming to the home to dispense certain medications. Nurses can also handle other complicated aspects of healthcare at home, such as changing wound dressings or performing safety evaluations.
Without this kind of help, it’s possible your dad may forget his medications, or forget the right times to take them. However, be aware of the possibility that he’s “forgetting on purpose”—i.e., not taking them for reasons unrelated to his health. Many people don’t like taking pills because it reminds them of their illness, so they won’t do so unless prompted. Other times, refusing medication is a cry for help, and a psychological intervention is needed.

Help with coping

Men may be more reluctant to share their feelings than women, especially ones involving grief or sadness. When they need to process their loss and discuss adjusting to life without their partner, home care can be invaluable. It may simply mean talking with their aide regularly, or using a service like the Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line. If things are more serious, and you think your dad may be suffering from depression, a clinician can visit the home and perform a psychological assessment.

Help with Finances

When I was the Director of Social Services at a nursing home, I would often talk to clients about their finances. Many times, I was surprised at how many of the gentlemen responded, “Oh, you’ll have to ask my wife – she takes care of all that.” If your dad is in this situation and has lost the person who did the bill-paying and organizing, home care agencies can help. They often have individuals such as rep payees, trustees, and durable power of attorneys to help manage a client’s newfound financial responsibilities.

Start talking with your senior dad

It can be hard to start a conversation with your senior dad about home care. Men are sometimes reluctant to ask for help — even if they really need it. Many times, they are under the mistaken impression it makes them appear vulnerable or “weak.” However, by explaining to your dad that home care can let him keep his independence, he may be more agreeable to trying it out. Mention some of the benefits listed here, and give your dad the support he needs to age with grace and dignity.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.

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