Stress affects everyone, and it can be very prevalent in seniors. In this article, we will go through the symptoms that can reveal stress and the dangers that may come from being stressed constantly. Family and caregivers should know how to identify the symptoms and how to handle our stressed seniors.
Stress affects all age groups. In older adults, the immune system does not work as well as it once did; it takes longer to fight common diseases. When we are young, we recover from illnesses quickly because our immune system is working at top speed all the time. Youngsters can manage stress better when they have proper counselling, but handling stress with a compromised immune system on top can be very daunting, irrespective of how much counselling is offered.
Stress can appear in numerous ways. Caregivers are normally the first person to notice the signs of stress and should be trained to recognize these signs for that they are. The most common signs of stress to look for;
- Changes in eating habits. Normally when seniors are stressed, they tend to eat much less than they usually do or not at all.
- Changes in the mood. They may be sadder and more nostalgic or overactive.
- Changes in brain activity; difficulties in short-term memory and concentration.
- Social withdrawal and isolation.
- Less attention to personal hygiene.
- Frequent sickness (more than usual).
- Low energy and fatigue.
The list does not mean that the stressed senior will have every symptom mentioned above; stress affects everyone differently. If you think that your loved one may be showing signs of stress, talk to their doctor as stress can sometimes be the symptom of other misdiagnosed illnesses.
Stress is common, but chronic stress can be harmful to older adults. If not addressed properly, chronic stress can lead to heart disease, depression, obesity and other major illnesses.
Many issues can lead to stress in older adults; existing health issues are a major contributor to chronic stress, and this actually acts as a vicious circle as stress can be making the health issue worse. Another issue leading to stress in seniors is losing friends and loved ones; when you become older, people you grew up with may pass away, and you feel a void or think about death too much.
Caregivers, families and close friends will be the first ones to notice a change in attitude. Whenever you notice a sign of stress in your loved ones, the first step is to have a chat with the person as most of the time, they know that they are stressed, but they do not know to manage it.
We should be aware that stress was not something openly discussed when the senior was younger and stress management was likely not something they had much experience with growing up.
Stress Management Tips
When someone is stressed, the first step is to be able to talk about it. In some cases, talking about the matter to a family member, a friend or a counsellor is enough.
If the senior is able to go for a walk whether it is to the park or even around the neighbourhood, a stroll can help.
We have heard it a million times; meditation allows us to empty our minds for some minutes and get away from racing thoughts that may be causing stress. If they make meditation a habit, the senior can progress in controlling their own thoughts.
Helping older adults identify their stressors is another important step to helping them reduce and manage their stress. Just being able to identify what is triggering their stress may help solve most of their issues. Once they understand their stressors, they can work with a counsellor on a plan to help reduce their overall stress level.
If you want to help, you can contact a professional. They can help determine what is causing your loved one stress and the best course of action to take. They will be able to help you make a long-term stress management plan specifically tailored to the older adult. Minimizing stress in older adults can potentially minimize other health problems. Let us know in the comments if you have any tips for stress management in seniors…