The Widowed Patient

Many widowed patients come to the hospital alone, with the thought that because their spouses are gone, nobody cares about them. They may be suffering from depression as a result of loneliness. The interviewer should inquire gently whether there are any children, relatives, or friends who can be contacted or will come to visit. Such a patient may be at odds with his or her children and may prefer that the children not know that the patient has entered a hospital. In other cases, the family may live far away. The patients do not want their family to worry, so they do not tell the family. In these cases, it is advisable for the clinician to alert the social worker to the particular situation. Volunteers visiting the patient, as well as members of the clergy, can bring soothing counsel. A warm handshake and reassurance are effective ways of putting this patient in a relaxed state of mind. Many widowed patients are quite active. The clinician should not presume that all widowed individuals are isolated.

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