In his documentary about grief, George Shelley uses an analogy of glitter. Throw glitter into the air, and it’ll fall into the cracks and crevices of the floor, impossible to fully sweep up and remove. Anyone who has lost a loved one can relate. Yet in some instances, grief may be so overwhelming that it could result in a serious and aptly-named condition: broken heart syndrome.
Broken heart syndrome is a real and serious physical condition that stems from the grueling stress experienced in some kinds of grief (such as one spouse losing the other after decades of marriage). The medical term is takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a temporary enlargement of the heart that prevents it from pumping blood effectively.
Furthermore, broken heart syndrome is more common than people may know. A number of high-visibility examples include Johnny Cash, who passed on just four months following the loss of his wife and George H.W. Bush, who became ill following the death of his wife of 73 years.
There has been research on the impact of grief on a person’s physical health for years. In 1995, for instance, the term “widowhood effect” was coined to explain the 30% increase in mortality rate faced by those who lost a longtime partner. Other scientists determined a connection between the immune system and grief. Some surviving spouses simply lose the will to live.
Help prevent this condition and ease the pain of grief for someone you love with these tips.
- Provide a listening ear and encourage the person to express their grief in a healthy way.
- Recommend the person speak with a counselor to effectively work through overwhelming emotions.
- Help the senior stay engaged in comforting, enjoyable activities whenever possible.
- Look for a grief support group for the senior to attend, either virtually or in person.
- Make sure the person is staying hydrated, eating well balanced meals, and getting plenty of sleep.
- Talk about the lost loved one, allowing the opportunity for shared memories and stories.
- Remind the person everything they have to live for, and that doing so is the best way to honor the lost loved one’s legacy.
A trained caregiving companion from Help at Home Senior Care can also be a great way to help a senior who is grieving. We offer socialization and plenty of opportunities for reminiscing and conversations, along with engaging activities, transportation wherever an older adult would like to go, and so much more. Reach out to us online or at (530) 885-7444 for a complimentary in-home consultation to find out more about our Auburn, CA senior care and care throughout the surrounding areas.