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Caregiving and grieving

Offering consolation to someone who has lost their spouse is always difficult, but what if the grieving individual is the caregiver's parent?

The caregiver must try to balance their own feelings with their need to comfort the surviving partner. Caregivers must remember everyone grieves differently, and how the caregiver approaches the grieving process may be vastly different from the way the widow or widower grieves.

Here are some basic tips to help both caregivers and surviving partners through this difficult time:

• Practice patience and understanding, from a long-term perspective. Grief will eventually decrease, but it may take months.

• After seeing a loved one suffer through an illness or a debilitating condition, the surviving spouse may not begin to grieve immediately. There may even be an initial sense of relief. However, the grief may appear suddenly, even after several weeks.

• Grief can create considerable stress, resulting in a depleted immune system. Interrupted or insufficient sleep may also become a concern. Make sure the widow's or widower's physician is aware of their loss.

• Grief can present a variety of emotions, with no rhyme or reason. It is not unusual for grieving persons to feel anger, resentment, relief, regret, and of course, sadness. Be prepared to expect any of these emotions, and don't judge the surviving partner for their current emotional state.

• Even after the grieving seems to have abated, the surviving spouse may still exhibit some grief-related behaviors, like being forgetful, distracted, confused, or disinterested in normal activities. Don't be afraid to talk about these things, and be a good listener.

• Make sure the surviving spouse is eating adequately. Encourage them to eat, and suggest exercise, with their physician's approval.

• Encourage participation in a support group for grieving spouses.

For more information contact the Caregiver Resource Center.

The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.

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