Help an Older Adult Cope with a Disease

· March 27, 2019
It makes a strong impression when our parents, grandparents, spouses, friends or any other older adult close to our heart is diagnosed with a serious illness, so it's essential to help them cope with it in the best way we can.

An older adult is at greater risk of contracting diseases and falling ill after the age of 65. However, this will be determined by the lifestyle that they’ve had and by the passage of time.

When an older adult is diagnosed with a serious illness, they face the fact that they won’t be able to continue with their previous lifestyle. This can make a strong impact on them and their family environment.

In these cases, appropriate methods must be found in order to make their process as easy as possible. Therefore, we’d like to offer six useful tips to help older adults cope with a disease.

1. Be honest

It’s very important, to be honest and sincere about the diagnosis of the disease. Along with family support and good medical guidance, you should find the right words to be able to explain the diagnosis clearly.

It’s important to avoid creating an atmosphere of sadness, despair or hopelessness in the elderly. However, a disease diagnosis shouldn’t be kept from anyone, regardless of how serious the situation may be. Nevertheless, one should be tactful about it.

2. Listen to and Respect the Decision of the Older Adult

Listening.

An older adult has gained a lot of experience throughout the course of their life. Therefore, and taking into account the the severity of the disease, you must always respect their decisions.

It’s important to explain the consequences of their condition so that they can make an informed decision as to whether they wish to follow treatment or continue a different course of action. In this regard, it’s essential for the family to provide support during the process of decision-making because it will reduce stress on the older adult.

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3. Help the Older Adult Continue a Normal Routine

A diagnosis of disease in an older adult doesn’t necessarily imply that the person should be in bed until they die. On the contrary, they must continue to carry out their daily activities as normal, although with the help and collaboration of his loved ones as needed.

Also, it is advisable to encourage them to develop new activities that benefit his physical and mental health.

4. Support From the Entire Family

It’s advisable that the family provides constant support to the older adult in terms of their health care and assistance. You can create shifts or routines so that every family member collaborates.

Within each routine, there should be visits, times to chat, and – in the case of people closest to the elderly – time for overall care. This way, the older adult won’t feel abandoned and the members of the family won’t be distressed, exhausted and overburdened with responsibilities.

5. Seek Psychological Help

Counseling.

Professional medical help is highly advisable when dealing with and coping with the illness of an elderly person.

The intervention of a psychologist in older adults can help them express and release their emotions, feelings, and concerns about their new stage of life. Furthermore, it will also help family members cope with the process.

A good alternative is to find a thanatologist who can counsel the entire family. This process can also help everyone come together and even improve their relationships.

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6. Maintain and Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle

The older adult should be encouraged to have a better lifestyle from the moment the disease is detected. As stated earlier, this is equivalent to carrying out new activities such as exercising and eating healthy.

The first step is to control the consumption of foods or drinks that may be harmful to their health condition.

In addition, activities outside their home should be encouraged, like taking a walk and meeting new people.

Looking forward to human interaction will make the older adult feel better despite their condition. It may even be the case that the general health of the person improves as their quality of life increases.

Turner, J., & Kelly, B. (2000). Emotional dimensions of chronic disease. Western Journal of Medicine172(2), 124–128.

“Helping pays off: People who care for others live longer.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 December 2016.

Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal174(6), 801–809. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.051351