The benefits of having a personal care aide are numerous — increased socialization for your loved one, a substantial savings over facility living, and a general improvement in life satisfaction. But things don’t always go according to plan, and your loved one may lose their aide through a variety of circumstances. How do you help an older adult through this trying time in their lives? The information below may help.
Why and how loss affects us
If your loved one recently lost a home health aide—either a family member or private care professional—it will have an impact. Tthe loss may occur because the caregiver quit the agency, retired, passed away, or simply had to leave for personal reasons. Regardless, losing someone special affects us all in different ways.
Even a gradual transition like cutting back from five days a week to two or saying goodbye to an aide who’s moving away can be difficult. The reason gradual changes can have a tremendous impact is because every time we suffer a loss, it can trigger emotions associated with previous losses. In effect, we are re-living that initial loss over and over with every new departure.
So, don’t be surprised if your loved one begins experiencing reactions that aren’t in sync with the perceived loss (like repeatedly breaking down in tears when a home health aide’s hours are reduced). If your aide passes away, this loss can also call to mind your loved one’s own fear of death and dying, which is especially the case if the home health aide’s passing was premature.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it
Talking about a loss is one of the best ways to cope with it, but bear in mind that your loved one may need prompting to do so. However, it’s equally important not to push them to discuss the matter if they’re not ready; just remind them every so often that the offer is there. When you do talk about it, let them express their feelings at their own pace.
This reticence can be challenging, as our culture tends to view silence as negative. Consequently, we usually seek to fill conversational voids with words. However, granting your loved one with a cushion of silence can help them to process their grief more effectively, and in their own way. Reminiscing about the person who’s gone, including looking over old photo albums, may also be an effective way to work through grief.
Seek medical attention when necessary
Sometimes, talk therapy is best left to the professionals. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be helpful to those in mourning, so you may want to suggest it to your loved one. Psychotropic drugs are another option, but don’t be too quick to medicate the pain away. Remember – grief is a normal and natural process. Using medication to attempt to mask the emotions associated with loss can backfire, possibly causing the patient to bury their pain and never learn to cope with it.
However, drug therapy may have its place in grief counseling; it can help the patient through the first few weeks or months of intense mourning until they can safely rely on their own coping skills. It is also sometimes used in cases of prolonged bereavement. Be sure to discuss all the options with your loved one’s physician before deciding on the best course of treatment.
Loss of a home health aide is never easy
Losing someone we care about is never easy, regardless of whether it is a close relative, a family pet, or someone we’ve come to think of as part of the family. It doesn’t matter if the loss is sudden or gradual. A loss is a loss, and it can leave a hole in your loved one’s heart – and yours. But, by employing some of the techniques above, you can both make it through this difficult time, and the pain you feel will be replaced by warm memories.
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.