July 13, 2022 by Dean Bellefeuille

senior lady holding old photo dealing with broken heart syndrome

In his documentary about grief, George Shelley uses an analogy of glitter. Toss a handful of glitter into the air, and it is going to settle into most of the crevices and cracks of the room, making it impossible to fully sweep up and remove. Anyone who has lost a loved one can relate. Yet, in certain instances, grief could be so overwhelming that it can lead to a serious and aptly-named condition: broken heart syndrome.

Broken heart syndrome is a very real physical condition due to the intense stress experienced in some forms of grief (such as one spouse losing the other after decades of marriage). The medical term is takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a temporary enlargement of the heart that prevents it from pumping blood effectively.

And, it’s more common than you may know. A number of high-visibility examples include Johnny Cash, who passed away just four months after the loss of his wife and George H.W. Bush, who became ill after the loss of his wife of 73 years.

Researchers have been analyzing the impact of grief on an individual’s physical health for decades. In 1995, for example, the term “widowhood effect” was coined to explain the 30% increase in mortality rate faced by individuals who lost a longtime partner. Other scientists determined a connection between the immune system and grief. Some surviving spouses simply lose the will to live.

Help prevent this condition and ease the pain of grief for someone you love with these tips:

  • Make sure the senior is staying hydrated, eating well balanced meals, and getting a lot of sleep.
  • Suggest the senior speak with a therapist to effectively work through overwhelming emotions.
  • Look for a grief support group for the senior to attend, either virtually or in person.
  • Provide a listening ear and encourage the person to express their grief in a healthy way.
  • Help the senior stay involved with comforting, enjoyable activities as much as possible.
  • Talk about the lost loved one, allowing the opportunity for shared stories and memories.
  • Remind the senior everything they have to live for and that doing so is the best way to honor the lost loved one’s legacy.

An experienced caregiver from At Home Independent Living is also a great way to help a loved one who is grieving. We offer socialization and plenty of opportunities for reminiscing and conversations, along with engaging activities, transportation wherever an older adult wishes to go, and so much more. Give us a call at (315) 579-HOME (4663) for a free of charge in-home consultation to learn more about how we are the go-to source for home care providers Liverpool, NY, and other nearby communities prefer most. For more information on all of the communities we serve in New York, please review our Service Area page.