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Grief and Physical Illness: How Are They Connected?

Grieving is a normal reaction to sad or stressful situations in life, and seniors sometimes have difficulty managing these emotions effectively. There is a point when a senior’s grief can significantly affect his or her physical health. The staff at Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of elder care in North Coast, wants to share information on how these two things are connected.

Grief is something we all experience at one time or another. Seniors can face a number of life circumstances that can cause immense grief, including the loss of a spouse or a difficult medical diagnosis. Your elderly loved one’s ability to successfully manage his or her grief depends on numerous factors, including access to emotional support from friends, family, or a North Coast caregiver, his or her current physical and emotional health, and his or her attitude toward grief and loss. If your loved one is not able to manage grief or if the grieving process is short-circuited, it can manifest in the form of physical illness.

The physical manifestations of grief may be relatively minor, but they can also be significant. Your loved one may experience a loss of appetite and gastrointestinal disturbances, which can lead to weight loss. The feelings of sadness and depression that accompany grief can present physically in the form of fatigue, weakness, and general lethargy. Anxiety can lead to heart palpitations and tightness in the chest. Grief can also affect the immune system, making your loved one more susceptible to colds and other opportunistic infections. A study published in the health journal Circulation determined that seniors are 20 percent more likely to experience a heart attack during spousal bereavement. In cases of an especially traumatic loss, a senior can experience significant somatic symptoms, including Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and high blood pressure.

Each person experiences grief differently. For example, the loss of a pet may be just as devastating to one senior as the loss of a spouse is to another. It is important to acknowledge your loved one’s feelings and to allow the opportunity for him or her to express grief. If the grief persists for an unusually long time, or your loved one is unable to engage in basic daily activities or expresses suicidal ideations, you should seek immediate professional help.

At Home Care Assistance, we understand how difficult it can be for seniors to overcome a loss or a serious diagnosis. Our professional caregivers can provide your loved one with the extra care and companionship he or she needs during this challenging time. We offer part-time and 24-hour care in North Coast, and our caregivers can provide social stimulation and emotional support while helping your loved one with various tasks around the house. For more information on our aged care services, call one of our qualified Care Managers at 1300 LIVE-IN or (02) 6646 3527 today.