The nature of life is that setbacks will always occur. Just when you think things are sailing along nicely, life likes to throw you a curveball. And those can be minor, although challenging to cope with – like losing a business contract – or they can be major, like serious ill health, natural disaster or a significant accident. Learning to cope with life’s more trying moments is something that we all have to face from time to time. However, these challenges can be harder to face for older people. They tend to be a little more set in their ways, and acceptance and recovery – physically and mentally – can be a much slower process. Things which are hard to cope with can get magnified into a catastrophe as you get older. So, if your elders are suddenly faced with something severe, how do you best support them and help them to cope with the crisis?
Help Them Start To Accept What’s Happened
The first reaction for a lot of people in the face of unexpected bad news is denial – they simply can’t process the reality of the situation. Gently explain to them that no one is immune to setbacks and reassure them that you’ll get through this one together. Accepting the situation is the first step in a long process of recovery and healing. The journey they will go in may change who they are as a person and how they see the world. If your loved one is trying to bury their head in the sand, try to help them start this process. If they can acknowledge a tough situation, they’ll be on the way to coming out of the other side and perhaps experiencing real personal growth as they do so. Steer them to acknowledge to themselves that something bad has happened that they couldn’t control, but then ask them what they can control in the situation, what positive steps they can take. This will help them to feel much more action-centred and give them a direction to head in when everything around has been turned upside down.
Locate Some Professional Support
When something overwhelming happens, sometimes you find yourself on sensory overload and you simply don’t know where to begin. In older people, this can be especially true, so a good way to support them is to signpost them to appropriate support services, be they medical, legal, practical or emotional. Assess the situation and involve them in asking what they might need. It could be professional counselling or a support group, someone to repair their damaged roof, Personal Injury Lawyers, or a good physiotherapist. Older people can find it harder to seek out this information, so support them to find it and you’ll be helping the situation a lot. If they don’t feel ready for it though, especially counselling or a support group, then don’t push them into it – leave them the information and let them come to it in their own time.
Give Them Time To Heal
Sometimes, recovery from a major setback is just one of those things which takes time. Just as physical injuries need time in order for the body to heal, so time is needed for emotional upheaval to settle and begin to reconcile. Make sure that you – or indeed, they – aren’t being impatient in your attitude to recovery from a significant event. Impatience will only make everything harder in the long run. Sometimes we can definitely be in too much of a hurry to try to fix our problems, or those of our loved ones, when actually we need to accept that healing is a process, not a quick fix. Try to guide their focus onto other matters – things they can enjoy in the here and now – it could be a trip out, or a new book, or a family dinner. Something simple that will take their attention away from the situation for a while.
Help Them Fix Their Sleep
Sleeping can often be a challenge for older people anyway – our quality of sleep tends to decrease when we get older – and when anxiety and sadness are also factors at play in the wake of a setback it can be even harder. Great sleep hygiene is what is often referred to as a keystone habit – a practice that acts as the foundation for lots of other things in our lives – and especially the physical or emotional healing needed after a major adverse event. The effects of not getting good quality sleep can range from loss of appetite to poor concentration and general low mood. It can affect our work, our relationships and most definitely our physical health. So support your loved one to get better sleep – make sure their sleeping environment is dark enough with a slightly cooler temperature. Buy them some high quality sheets and pillows. And if they are really struggling, look into options like an aromatherapy diffuser or lavender pillow spray. If they are still struggling, point them to a healthcare practitioner who may be able to prescribe a sleeping aid.