Memorial Day, like so many American holidays, has evolved to become a 3-day weekend and a time to connect with family and friends. Older Americans, however, very often do feel the true meaning of Memorial Day as they are reminded of all the friends and family members who have passed away. Caregivers will experience the added challenges of caring for the emotional aspects of aging which includes dealing with the loss of loved ones.
The healing process of grieving takes time and even though professional therapists counsel that grieving a loved one takes 2 years, there will always be triggers that can spur more emotional memories. In addition, some seniors are grieving the "long goodbye" of a loved one who may be living but no longer be emotionally available because of Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease.
Losing loved ones when we know they are diagnosed as terminal is actually the healthiest way to say goodbye. But how do we help someone who is recovering from the death of a friend, spouse or family member?
Listen and let them talk about their memories and what they miss about the person. Allow them to cry and to laugh and to share. Encourage them to find a way to celebrate the memories. The ritual of visiting the cemetery to place fresh flowers on the grave markers on Memorial Day is a healthy way to celebrate the memories of a loved one. Asian cultures make a shrine to their loved one which they keep in their homes. They will light candles and celebrate the birthdays and holidays while remembering and honoring their deceased loved ones.
Senior caregivers can also share their own memories of loved ones who have passed on. One caregiver who recently won a scholarship from the California Association for Health Services at Home shared the story of how caring for her grandparents who both died while in hospice care, inspired her to become a professional senior caregiver and go on to nursing school.
Everyone has a story of a loved one they have lost and still hold the memories in their hearts. Let Memorial Day be a day to share the memories. And if you meet anyone who may be considering a career as a senior caregiver or who would like to just assist others and work part-time, refer them to a senior caregiving job.