As people age, they feel the negative effects of stress more profoundly. While it’s normal to feel stressed from time to time, coping with mental strain isn’t easy when you get older. Older adults often find themselves having less resilience to stress.
The most exposed you are to stress, the more prone you are to suffer premature ageing. And with older people, this effect is magnified.
What are the common sources of stress for the elderly
While the causes of stress vary from person to person, there are common reasons why seniors experience stress even when they are not working, commuting, overscheduled, or involved with family matters. Below are a few of them:
• Loss of memory
As people grow older, the ability to remember things may decline. In turn, this causes stress and anxiety as they feel inadequate just because they cannot remember important things. They also run the risk of forgetting to pay bills on time or paying twice because they forgot about their first payment. This impacts their finances and may cause an additional financial burden. Even having debts can affect your health, and lead to stress.
• Physical discomfort or chronic pain
It is normal to lose some physical functions as people age, but this decline can cause stress and anxiety. Ageing can lead to loss of eyesight, mobility, and dexterity, and a lot of older people feel ineffective when they have to set aside certain activities because of such limitations. Moreover, chronic pain is common and may affect their overall health and well-being, further causing stress.
• Loneliness due to less interaction to friends or relatives
Losing friends or relatives deeply impact the emotional health of the elderly. Loneliness and grief can be a big factor as most of their children or grandchildren live far away. This makes the elderly feel isolated from their support network, adding to their already piling concerns. On top of that, the death of their loved ones can further increase their stress levels.
• Cost of healthcare and pressure to pay bills
Once seniors retire, they will no longer have the means to support themselves. Most of the time, they rely on social security, pension, and other savings so they can live comfortably and pay their bills. However, some do not have adequate resources, especially if there is illness involved. The cost of healthcare is also constantly rising, and the elderly are more and more pressured to pay bills on time. This can be a major cause of stress as they can no longer earn money as they get older.
• Retirement issues
Retirement may sound appealing to some, but when the time finally comes, you will realise that having too much time on your hands can be stressful. This is especially true for seniors who are used to being productive, working in the corporate world or being busy with a lot of chores. This brings a dramatic change to their routine, and if they are not ready, it may lead to certain health issues.
Effects of stress on older adults
Stress is inevitable, no matter how you try to avoid it. As a matter of fact, stress is a natural response of the body when faced with demanding or adverse conditions or events.
When your elderly experiences chronic stress due to the factors stated above, they will manifest certain signs and symptoms. And, managing these symptoms is very important as they are more vulnerable to health problems caused by chronic stress.
1. Heart problems
When you are stressed, your adrenaline level rises. As a result, your heart rate and blood pressure also increase.
Also, most people find relief from stress through unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking, over-eating, or smoking. All these contribute to damaged arteries or blood vessels.
2. Dental issues
If you notice your elderly loved ones grinding their teeth when they sleep, it is a sign that they are stressed out. This is a cause of concern because stress can damage the teeth and jaw by clenching. They might chip or damage their teeth leading to fractures, cavities, and pain.
3. Lowered immune system
When the body is stressed, the immune system is suppressed, making you susceptible to contract a cold or any viral illness. Older people tend to get sick easily, and it would take longer for them to recover. This is because the body will have a difficult time detecting and fighting infections during old age. And, simple infections may lead to a more serious illness when untreated.
4. Loss of vision and hearing
In extreme cases, the elderly may experience temporary vision and hearing loss. When adrenalin is constantly on high levels, the blood vessels may constrict. As a result, there is decreased hearing and vision.
5. Digestive issues
It is common to experience stomach pain when stressed. Sometimes, you may even find yourself running to the bathroom due to cramps. When stressed, the fight or flight response of the body is activated, shutting down blood flow resulting in the contraction of the digestive muscles. As a result, the enzymes needed for digestion is reduced, and your elderly loved ones will experience irritable bowel syndrome and even ulcers.
Other signs of stress among the elderly are the following:
– They easily feel tired and unwilling to do anything
– They have difficulty sleeping
– They are irritated even at the small stuff
– They worry unnecessarily
– They experience headaches and other pains
– They have negative feelings and attitude
– They feel out of control
– They have difficulty concentrating on tasks
– They frequently cry even for no reason
– They are constipated or have diarrhea often
– They experience shortness of breath
If you notice your elderly loved ones having these symptoms, help them manage their stress before it becomes irreversible. You can find a lot of resources online on how to manage stress effectively.
Managing stress among the elderly
Many people think that retirement is the time when seniors just relax and have the time of their lives. But, older people face new concerns as they encounter new challenges that come with ageing. That is why managing stress among the elderly is very important, so they can still enjoy the moment and live fulfilled lives.
Below are a few ideas on how you can help seniors to manage their stress:
Taking your seniors to a jog or a walk is enough to help release their pent-up tension. During exercise, the body gets rid of those toxic hormones and replace them with happy-inducing endorphins. It helps put your seniors in a good mood and helps clear their minds.
2. Staying active
Encourage your seniors to keep doing what they love. If they are fond of gardening, tell them to keep pursuing their passion. Remind them of the accomplishment they feel when they care for a new plant.
If they love sewing, volunteer to get those wonderful fabrics for their next sewing project. If they love to cook, keep them engaged as long as they are physically able. It is a great way for them to release tension and anxiety.
Additional stresses, tying into retirement issues is end-of-life planning for seniors. It may feel like a hard conversation to start and have, but is huge in reducing stress for your senior loved ones. Pre-planning will allow them to express their end-of-life wishes, giving them a sense of relief. It also makes it so their wishes are financially covered when the time comes, reducing stress for everyone involved.
4. Taking care of a pet
If your seniors have no allergies, owning a pet might help them cope with anxiety, depression, and stress. It is an excellent way to keep them company and help increase social interaction. Dogs are good for people who want to stay active, while cats also have soothing and relaxing effects on their owners.
5. Increasing vitamin intake
Bones easily weaken when people get older. If you have seniors who are dealing with arthritis or osteoporosis, motivate them to take vitamins C and D to help regulate their calcium levels. These vitamins are known to fight fatigue and depression.
Stress affects everyone, regardless of gender or age. But with the right stress management, your seniors can overcome their anxiety and keep living fulfilled and happy lives.
Adam Jones is a professional blogger of aged care trends, services, and stories. You may click here to contact Arcare if you are looking for a facility to help your seniors fight the negative effects of stress.