As we all experienced firsthand in 2020, stress can be debilitating or even aggravate health problems. For seniors, stress and aging often go hand-in-hand. Physical changes, loss of independence and the pressure of providing care for a spouse or sibling are common stress triggers for seniors.
We each experience and process stress in different ways. Seniors under stress often have a less effective immune system and are more susceptible to a variety of ailments, from headaches and insomnia to high blood pressure and joint aches caused by inflammation. Other common effects of stress include depression and memory loss—even profoundly serious issues like stroke and heart disease can occur as a result of stress.
It is important for all of us to recognize stress and identify strategies and solutions for coping. While working or interacting with seniors, you are in an ideal position to look out for the signs of stress and identify its sources to reduce its impact. The best bet to minimize the effects of stress is early detection – something you can help with.
Common Stressors for Older Adults
- The physical effects of aging can trigger stress for seniors. Changes in health and physical ability, the cost of healthcare, and an increased dependence on others are common stressors. Health conditions may prevent seniors from doing their favorite activities, which can also lead to stress.
- A reduction in independence can often lead to a lack of purpose, another stress-inducing factor.
- Losing a spouse, family member, friend, or a beloved pet can cause stress, as well as the loneliness and isolation that often accompanies such a loss.
- Many seniors are under the pressure of caring for another frail family member such as a sibling, spouse, or partner. Our nation’s caregiver shortage has placed additional burden on family members, and the act of caregiving is emotionally and physically strenuous, often leading to high stress.
Signs a Senior May Be Stressed
While working with aging adults, you have the opportunity to observe seniors and notice changes in their wellness and behavior. Stress can manifest itself in many ways. Here are several signals to identify signs of stress:
- Mood swings such as increased irritability, anxiety, sadness or indifference
- Difficulties with short-term memory and concentration
- Withdrawal and isolation
- Less attention to personal hygiene and self-care
- Headaches, aches and pains
- Weight gain or loss
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low energy and fatigue
- Unnecessary worrying
How to Minimize Stress in Seniors
For those inundated with stress, it can be helpful to discuss the sources of stress and potential solutions. By identifying the sources of stress, an overwhelming situation can become more manageable. Lending a supportive ear is a great start, alongside these stress reduction techniques that you can share:
Relaxation – encourage meditation or breathing exercises
Exercise – incorporate fresh air and activity into daily routines
Self-Care – promote healthy eating and getting plenty of sleep
Communication – encourage discussing issues with caregivers, friends or family
Involvement – recommend joining community events or volunteering (with appropriate COVID protocols in place)
Control – reminders not to focus on things that cannot be controlled
It is important for everyone to find ways to manage stress before the damage becomes irreversible. As someone who works closely with older adults, you understand the challenges they face every day. If a senior you know needs special care, consider making a referral to your local professional at Oasis Senior Advisors. At Oasis, we specialize in connecting seniors to needed resources right here in our community. Learn more at www.oasissenioradvisors.com or by calling (888) 455-5838.