Spousal death key link to loss of independent living for seniors

The death of a spouse is always a tragedy, but for seniors, that tragedy can spur some significant life changes. And one University of Alberta researcher says the choices they make are something policymakers need to pay attention to.

Sociologist Lisa Strohschein says that losing a partner can the need for the surviving spouse to leave the residence they once shared. And the period is often key for them or their family members to decide whether it makes sense for that person to continue living alone or whether they give up living independently.

"Two people can take care of each other; they can share the burden of and may share income sources that allow them to live the kind of life that allows them to live independently," she said. "What this study shows is that, in fact, bereavement is a triggering mechanism (for the surviving spouse to move out of independent living)."

Strohschein's research noted that these seniors choose to either move into an institution or to reside with family members, most often their . She says that when it came to these decisions, men and women were both equally likely to having to move when their partner died. She also noted that to Canada were more likely to reside with their families than their Canadian-born counterparts. Yet, she says, more needs to be done to help seniors make the final choice of where to live, but when to move should be left to the seniors themselves.

"Perhaps we can do a better job of providing services and/or counseling for recently widowed to help them make decisions that are going to be right for them," said Strohschein, "and provide more services for those ones that really do want to move out of independent living who say, 'I can no longer bear these burdens,' to ensure that they are supported."

Strohschein says that understanding the processes that lead to seniors' decisions to leave their homes is important for the government to acknowledge, especially with an aging population. She says that developing processes and putting services in place would allow these people to retain their independence and their dignity in their twilight years, which is critical to ensuring the system does not become needlessly taxed.

"How do we delay that onset of moving a person to institutional care, care that tends to be quite costly, and can be depersonalizing for the person who's receiving it," Strohschein said. "As people come towards the end of their lives, how do we give them the most ability and the greatest dignity to exercise their right or their need for independence?

"Coming up with other kinds of options that are going to maintain seniors' independence as long as possible and give them the services that they need to help maintain that are going to be absolutely critical."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Seniors struggle with chronic pain

Feb 22, 2008

A Canadian survey found that more than one-quarter of seniors living at home and 38 percent of those in institutions suffered from chronic pain.

Study: Health 'shocks' diminish wealth more later in life

Apr 09, 2008

A new study underscores the need for seniors to maintain their health -- in order to maintain their wealth. Building on a 2003 study that found that healthy seniors are more likely to retain their savings, Ohio State University ...

Recommended for you

Independent safety investigation needed in the NHS

2 hours ago

The NHS should follow the lead of aviation and other safety-critical industries and establish an independent safety investigation agency, according to a paper published today by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The au ...

Sexual fantasies: Are you normal?

6 hours ago

Hoping for sex with two women is common but fantasizing about golden showers is not. That's just one of the findings from a research project that scientifically defines sexual deviation for the first time ever. It was undertaken ...

AMA 'Code of Ethics' offers guidance for physicians

11 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics and other articles provide guidance for physicians in relation to public health emergencies, according to a report from the AMA.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.