Dear Donna:

We lost my dad after a long battle with cancer early last year. It’s been tough trying to process this loss and support my mom in her grief. They were married almost sixty years, and she was his very devoted caregiver for over six years.

Because my mom’s days were so focused on caring for my dad, she rarely did anything for herself. One challenge she is facing is finding purpose again. Overnight she went from never having enough time to suddenly having nothing but time.

I’d like to find ways to help my mom rebuild her own life. She’s spending far too much time alone. Do you have any suggestions?


Casey in Byron Center, MI

Encouraging a Senior Loved One to Reconnect

Dear Casey:

Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father. I’m sure it’s difficult to process your own grief while also caring for your mother.

It’s great that you recognized this problem and are trying to help your mom. Going from caring for someone around the clock to having an open schedule is a big adjustment! I have a few suggestions I hope will be useful:

  • Volunteer for a cause: Much like with caregiving, knowing someone is counting on you gives the days meaning. While your mom probably isn’t looking for full-time volunteer work, sharing a few hours of time each week for a cause close to her heart might help her feel needed again. Your local United Way office may be able to suggest nonprofit agencies currently seeking volunteers. If not, try a website like VolunteerMatch. They match volunteers to projects by city or zip code.
  • Learn something new: Learning is good for the body, mind, and spirit. Encourage your mom to explore local classes and workshops. Has your mom always wanted to learn how to play the piano but never had time? Or does she enjoy researching family history? Encourage her to share her dreams so the two of you can work on making them a reality.
  • Join a senior center: Like many caregivers, your mom’s social circle may have shrunk when she was busy taking care of your dad. Joining a local senior center is one way she can make new friends. Most have minimal membership fees and offer programming that ranges from art classes and card groups to group outings.
  • Practice healthy self-care: One final suggestion is to encourage your mom to take care of herself. If she’s been neglecting her annual physical or is behind on health screenings, make those a priority. Also help her find easy ways to exercise and eat well. Lifestyle diets, such as the DASH Diet or the Mediterranean Diet, are linked to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more. An exercise program that incorporates weight training, stretching, and cardiovascular activity will also help her feel better.

I hope this is helpful, Casey! Sending good thoughts to you and your mom.

Kind regards,


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