Although the topic is still up for some debate, there’s no doubt of the correlation: widowed spouses (in older people) tend to pass away within a year of their loved one.
Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe it’s happened to your parents, or maybe this is your first time hearing about it, but regardless it’s important to be more aware of it, especially around the holidays. According to a study conducted by Dr. S.V. Subramanian at Harvard School of Public Health, 66% of the time a surviving spouse passes away within 3 months of their significant other – that’s when the rate is highest.
Other doctors claim that window of passing is open through 12 months, but ultimately, there’s no quantifiable deadline. What is known is that based on the research, there is a clear correlation and the doctors call it the widowhood effect.
Why Do Widowed Spouses Pass Away?
The research was thorough and they assessed numerous reasons as to why the widowed spouses pass away. Dr. Subramanian speculates that it could be grief-related. Stress, being the cause of many illnesses, can weigh heavy on a mourning senior.
In addition, since the spouses usually care for one another, they may stop taking care of their own body. Afterwards, their loved one’s illness may spread to them since they’re in a weakened state. Furthermore, the routine can change drastically regardless of whether the death was expected or sudden. If the elderly spouse has been taking care of their partner for years, then they can find it hard to build a new routine.
Likewise, when the death is sudden, it’s devastating and everyday tasks become hard. Imagine trying to relearn how to sleep alone. Or, if the chores and errands were split among the couple, then it’s just as hard to pick up the slack.
But the main problem the doctors found is that when seniors lose their spouses, they often don’t have enough of a support group to get them through it.
Make Thanksgiving Count for Surviving Spouses
This Thanksgiving, if your elder is a widowed spouse, there are two things you can do to ensure their health.
- Change the location of your Thanksgiving
- Surround your elder with family and friends
Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for changing traditions – or hosting old traditions in a new setting. For many elders, simply being in a familiar place, can cause depression because it’s flooded with memories of their loved one.
Move the location! Make sure your elder is in a new environment so they’re not dwelling on nostalgia, but making new memories. Now, new memories can be overwhelming, but when your elder is surrounded by family, it can create a positive new experience – one they look forward to.
It’s a simple fix and yet it may save the widowed senior’s life.