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Elderly people have their own set of circumstances, challenges, and risk factors related to their mental health and wellbeing that no other age group has. As people age it is important that aged care workers are able to provide the required support to those who may need it.

The types of support that they may need to provide may be in response to:

Emotional and psychological needs 

These needs are usually made up of feelings and emotions the aged person may be experiencing for any given reason. 

The psychological needs of the older person tie in closely with their emotional needs in that it is about who they are as a person and how outside factors can influence their coping mechanisms, impressions of themselves and their influence on others. 

Emotional/psychological responses can be triggered off for any number of reasons. Shock, trauma and depression are a few reasons why these responses may occur. Loss is often the main reason why these emotions occur. 

Emotional/psychological states vary from person to person. 

Based on the person’s life experiences and what events may have occurred, the person may experience a number of different emotions. 

Understanding grief and loss 

The death of someone close or loss of health can be major contributors to a person’s emotional well-being. Although the death of a partner, close friend or family member is of major significance to the person, there are also several losses that are just as important. 

Grief is how we respond when we experience loss. Grief allows us to adjust to our loss and find a way to continue our life without what or whom we had. 

These losses may be: 

- health
- limb
- independence
- pet
- confidence
- the family home (if the person is going into nursing home)
- the ability to perform certain tasks
- sight
- hearing
- mobility
- roles when children move out of home, person may no longer feel needed. 

Grief is not an illness 

Following loss, the grieving person must reassess the world and themselves because something has changed. Grief is not an illness. We don’t ‘get over’ profound grief but life will eventually have meaning again, although our loss may always be part of us. Eventually we will learn to live with our loss. It is not unusual for grief to be felt over an extended period, even many years. 

Response to loss 

Some losses have a major impact on the client’s life. How much it affects the person depends on how important the loss was to them. In the case where someone has died, the client will experience many emotions. 

There are always several different responses to grief and loss. These can include: 

  • Shock 
  • Disbelief
  • Denial
  • Loneliness
  • Sadness
  • Depression 

Sometimes grief can cause difficulty in sleeping and can lead to physical symptoms. If these symptoms persist, check with your doctor to exclude other cause. 

It can also affect our thinking so that we may think we will never get over this or we may think we are going insane. 

There are a number of strategies that may assist you in supporting the grieving person to realise what has happened is real and true and must be acknowledged. 

For more information on how you can help to support the elderly, check out our extensive aged care courses.

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