Helping Older Adults Deal With Life-Changing Events


Life-changing events can happen at any age. This includes things such as the death of a loved one, newly diagnosed health problems, and job loss. As people age, these events become more common. Grief is a normal, healthy response to loss. Over time it can take a toll on your emotional and mental health. It can even lead to depression. If you’re a caregiver or if you spend time with an older adult, learn how to help your loved one cope with loss.

Learn about the grieving process.

Path to improved well being

Understand the grieving process:

  • There are common physical and emotional symptoms of grief. In “Grieving: Facing Illness, Death, and Other Losses”you will learn everyone is different. There is no “right” way to grieve. Each loss is different, too. Allow your loved one the time and space to grieve his or her own way.
  • This is the most important thing you can do for a loved one. If you don’t know what to say, just listening makes a big impact. Your loved one may need to express his or her feelings. If you are uncomfortable, offer to help.

Grief and loss can be overwhelming. Small tasks may seem exhausting. That why an offer to help make a different. Don’t wait for your loved one to ask for help. Offer to do things like make dinner, pick up groceries or a prescription, do laundry or clean.

Things to consider

The symptoms of grief and the symptoms of depression are similar. It’s normal for a person to feel sad after a loss. That is temporary. Your loved one may be depressed if:

  • He or she doesn’t feel better as time passes.
  • His or her emotions get in the way of daily life.
  • He or she no longer takes pleasure in the things they used to love doing.
  • He or she mentions or has thoughts of suicide.

What you can do to help a loved one who has depression:

  • Don’t be afraid to remember the person who passed in fond conversations. This may help your loved one feel less alone.
  • Avoid saying “I know how you feel” or he or she is “in a better place.” This minimizes your loved one’s feelings. Instead, say things like, “I know this must be difficult,” or “You don’t have to be so strong.” This helps draw out your loved one’s feelings.
  • Just sit with your loved one. This can be comforting, even if he or she doesn’t want to talk.

If you notice any of these signs, talk to your loved one’s family doctor. The doctor can help treat the depression so your loved one can start to feel better.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Does my loved one need medicine to treat his or her emotional problems?
  • Can a job loss at an older age be upsetting?
  • Will my loved one’s emotional feelings cause physical illness?