Forgiveness for Senior Citizens and Those Nearing End of LifeDo you know that people become happier as they get older? According to Mental Health News, happiness significantly rises for the over 50-crowd, and while physical health may decrease as people get older, mental well-being increases. Researchers attribute that to the lowered personal and professional expectations older people place on themselves.
Something else that comes with old age: an increased capacity to forgive others. It’s easier for older adults to forgive than it is for younger adults.
The study documenting those findings looked at individuals who ranged in age from 19-84 years and found that older adults showed higher levels of agreeableness than younger adults. How does this relate to forgiveness? More agreeable people are more forgiving than less agreeable ones. Consequently, older people are more apt to forgive.
Older people may have an edge on younger ones as far as happiness and forgiveness, but these positive emotions and traits aren’t restricted to a certain age young people can (and should) tap into empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and well-being too.
Do you know an elderly person who could benefit from the pressure-relieving experience of forgiveness?
The Journey of Forgiveness: An Educational Program for Persons at the End of Life is an educational manual designed to help the dying person to forgive and can be used by any counseling professional. It is based on the process model of forgiveness developed by Dr. Robert Enright. Order a copy in the Store.
Forgiveness and Alzheimer's Disease
Do you know someone struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease or a caregiver dealing with an Alzheimer’s Pie Charts victim? Although there is no study showing a link between unforgiveness and Alzheimers, there are indications that this could be the case in an indirect sense. Consider this article, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, written by a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist, from the Fortanasce-Barton Neurology Center in California.
The article presents evidence that high levels of anger can lead to more toxins going to the brain (the study was done on mice and so we must be careful in extrapolating this to humans). That same article cites a study on humans showing that when presented with very disturbing stimuli, the research participants’ brains showed signs of agitation “and exhaustion of the neurons, therefore increasing their stress and cortisol levels that will interfere with good neuronal transmission.” This evidence indicates that a link between unforgiveness (agitation, anger) and brain function has merit as a hypothesis.
When it comes to forgiveness and Alzheimer’s, here is a helpful article from Harvard Medical School on " How to Talk About Death, Forgiveness and Making End-of-Life Decisions." Here is one from the Mayo Clinic on forgiving the self when caring for someone with the disease: “Forgive yourself as a caregiver, and relieve anger.” And finally, another article from the Fortanasce-Barton Neurology Center in California: "Alzheimer's Very Long Goodbye."
If you decide to pursue counseling, two excellent resources are available to help you choose the right counselor:
1) The American Psychological Association (APA) has a helpful fact sheet called How to Choose a Psychologist with sections including "Credentials to look for," "What to consider when making the choice," and "Questions to ask." The APA also maintains a searchable database called Psychologist Locator where you can search by zip code, city, state, and area of specialization.
2) Psychology Today has assembled a directory of therapists that is searchable by state, by major US cities, by Canadian provinces, and by
major Canadian cities. The database includes Psychologists, Counselors, Therapists, Psychiatrists, and Social Workers. You can even search based on the type of counseling you need including: divorce, addiction, anger management, domestic abuse, family conflict, infidelity, relationship issues and more. The online directory is called Find a Therapist.
With that information in hand, you can then ask your physician or another health professional to recommend a reliable psychologist or counselor. Call your local or state psychological association. Consult a local university or college department of psychology. Ask family and friends. Contact your area community mental health center. Inquire at your church or synagogue.
Accommodating Those With Disabilities/Special Needs
One additional and significant resource for families caring for an Alzheimer's patient or any senior citizen, is a handy guide called "Home Remodeling for Disability and Special Needs: What You Need to Know."
Developed by Expertise, a consumer resource center based in Seattle, WA, this guide covers essential information for disability and special needs home remodeling. It identifies legal and financial resources available to citizens, seniors, and veterans; offer tips to hire the right home remodeler; and suggests modifications throughout the home to make the space as accommodating as possible. A truly inviting home environment is an important aspect of dealing with forgiveness and mental health for this special group of people.
Did a family member pass away before you could make amends?
Or the person hurt you so badly that making things right seemed impossible. How did it make you feel? Can you forgive yourself for any guilt that you have as a result of not taking action? Maybe the only feelings you've been able to muster over time are resentment or outright hatred. Forgiveness could be the answer. Learn more by reading any of these books by Dr. Enright: Forgiveness Is a Choice; The Forgiving Life; 8 Keys to Forgiveness.