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Вітаємо вас у Довіднику безбар’єрності

«У комунікації приховано набагато більше сенсів, ніж нам здається. Цей Довідник допоможе розкрити нові, додаткові смисли, коли в центрі уваги – людина та її різноманіття. І це стане першим кроком у формуванні нової етики спілкування».

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Олена Зеленська

How to inform an older person about the loss of a loved one

08.03.2022

Elderly people have a very acute fear of death, so please keep that in mind. They often hide their fear behind words such as “I have nothing to lose” or “I’ve already lived my life”.

This kind of demonstrative acceptance of death is just a defensive mechanism. This is why you need to be especially gentle when informing an older person about the loss of their loved one. This will help lessen the psychological trauma as much as possible under the circumstances.

  1. Don’t put the conversation off for too long, because most people will still feel that something’s off. The longer you wait before telling them, the more anxious and agitated a person might become. The best time to relay the bad news is when you’re feeling calm enough to have this conversation, but not later than 12-24 hours after you get the news.
  2. If you can’t be there in person and have to inform the person over the telephone, try to make sure that someone will be near the person at that time. If that’s impossible, make sure you’re ready to immediately call an ambulance if the person faints or feels unwell during the conversation.

Find out the telephone numbers of emergency services in the town where the elderly person lives. If you’re also dealing with grief and don’t feel up to the task, ask a friend to do this for you.

  1. As difficult as it is to do so, you need to talk clearly and calmly, without letting your emotions get the better of this. You can say something along the lines of: “I’m sorry, So-and-so died.” Tell them the cause of death, but don’t get into the details.

Give the person time to process the news. If they seem in shock, wait for a minute or two. If they react immediately (by crying or screaming), give them a few minutes to let out their immediate emotions. If they react by going into denial, give them a few minutes to accept the information.

After the first five minutes of shock or denial or reaction, help or ask those around you to bring water, napkins, to help the person sit or lie down. If the person does not object – embrace them, or take their hand, make it clear that you are nearby. If it’s a phone call, say you’re there for them and wait for the other person to talk.

  1. Once the person has calmed down enough to talk or seems less in shock, ask them if they want a drink of water or if they feel cold. They might need something to help them calm down.

Shock and stress can cause fever, tremors, so be prepared to cover a person with a blanket or hug them. If you are not physically close, ask them to snuggle under a warm blanket or to put on some warm clothes and make themselves some tea. Guide their actions with your voice. Your voice should be as calm and confident as possible.

  1. If you need to leave the person alone for some time, or if you need to leave them with somebody else, make sure to ask if they’ll be alright with you leaving or hanging up the phone. If you’re able to, leave some drinking water within reach, along with the necessary medication, a blanket and a phone they can use to dial you if they need to talk.
  2. If the person is by themselves, make sure to check in by phone or text every 2-3 hours and ask them how they’re feeling and what they’re doing. Ask the person to pour themselves some water, take their medication, snuggle under a blanket or put some warm clothes on. Stay on the line while they do it.

If you need to inform an older person you don’t know personally about the death of their loved one, make sure to ask if they have someone close by, or if there’s someone they can turn to for support and help.

If you’re able to, ask for their phone number and occasionally get in touch to find out how the person is doing, at least for the first 2-3 days. If you’re not able to get in touch personally, ask a volunteer or maybe someone you know and who’ll be able to contact the older person, ask them how they’re doing and remind them to sleep, eat and stay hydrated.

* Suggestions from Yulia Pavlova, psychologist and transformation coach, communications and emotional intelligence expert.

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