While it’s common to experience some levels of stress throughout one’s life, stress has the potential to impact seniors greatly. Ageing in itself causes many stresses, include ill health, loss, separation and loss of independence. Many older Australians live alone, which can add to worrying about something going wrong and nobody being there to help.
There are ways to help you read the signs of stress in your senior loves ones, looking at how to identify stress, what you can do to help with their stresses.
People encounter stress throughout their lives. These stresses cause changes to hormone levels in the body. These include cortisol and various other hormones. Long term stress can negatively impact seniors’ health at a greater level because older bodies already experience increased difficulty in regulating hormone levels. Long term stress resulting in hormonal changes can increase the risk of endocrine disorders, including Grave’s disease and Diabetes Mellitus.
What are Some Signs of Stress?
There’s no super obvious symptoms of stress, and therefore it often goes unnoticed. Especially because people are good at putting on a brave face around others. However, there are certain signs that you can look out for, especially when there’s been recent life changing events such as a death of a spouse or a new diagnosis.
Take time to eat meals with your loved ones and talk with them to find out how they’re managing. A change in diet is one indication of stress in a seniors life. It could be a loss of appetite or the reverse. Another teltale sign of stress is difficulty in sleeping, including sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep might not be obvious, but changes in mood, increased irritability, and signs depression are more obvious signs of stress when you spend time with your elderly loved ones. Lack of interest and enthusiasm in activities of daily living are also signs that a person’s experiencing significant levels of stress.
If you’re worried that your loved one isn’t coping with stress, or experiencing anxiety and depression, make an appointment with your G.P. to discuss diagnosis and treatment options.
There are also stress-reduction exercises that seniors can benefit from. Read on for more details.
Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress
Relaxation techniques have been shown to improve health and wellbeing, including improving sleep, improving concentration and improving mood.
While we often think of relaxation techniques such as yoga, and meditation, there are many other suggestions that give you time to collect your thoughts, increase your energy and alleviate stress. Tai chi is a great option for seniors, as it’s great for relaxation as well as balance, gate and mobility.
Massage is another positive relaxation technique, accompanied with aromatherapy oils to calm you. Whether it’s massage, meditation or art therapy, there’s great benefits in finding a relaxation activity to help you or your loved one to manage and reduce stress.
Increase Your Physical Activity
While many older people have co-morbidities that could impact on physical activity, engaging in appropriate physical activity has potential mental health benefits for seniors. Studies have shown that regular exercise does improve overall mood among seniors.
According to Health Direct, seniors should try and exercise for 30 minutes on most days if possible. This doesn’t mean that you have to put your sneakers on and go for a fast run. It just means moving your body for 30 minutes a day to improve and maintain many aspects of your health, including stress levels. In your 30 minutes of exercise you can include a brisk walk, mowing the lawn, general housework or shopping. Anything that increases your heart rate accounts for moderate activity. Water aerobics is a great, low impact exercise that’s got many health benefits for seniors.
Eating a Balanced Diet
Many people are aware that stress influences eating behaviours, but does diet improve mood and reduce stress levels? According to Beyond Blue, eating a well-balanced diet does improve people’s sense of wellbeing. If you’re Unsure what a well-balanced diet includes, the Australian Dietary Guidelines are a good point of reference. Also, eating a healthy diet means reducing your intake of alcohol, fats, sugar and salt. Alcohol and sugar can particularly affect one’s mood.
Changing the Environment
Many seniors have lived in the same home for most of their lives. A consequence of staying in one spot is building up clutter in the home. This can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. De-cluttering could help to alleviate these feelings. A spring clean could help too. Having a clean, well lit, clutter-free space can help to ease stress.
Increase Your Social Support
Many seniors are isolated, resulting in loneliness. This can affect mood and increase stress. Feeling unsupported can increase stress. Creating a social network and finding ways to spend more time with friends and family might help. If you’re unable to be in physical contact with some people, you could have a regular time that you talk over the phone each week. You could even become pen pals with someone such as a grandchild.
Sometimes you lose contact with friends for various reasons. Re-connecting with an old friend could improve your mood and offer an opportunity to speak with someone who might be experiencing similar stresses.
Finally, if family and friends are out of reach, why not join a social activity? You could volunteer, join a class, or even a walking group. It’s a great way to spend time with others and decrease isolation. Being social increases feelings of belonging, allowing you to feel less stressed in this area of your life.
If you or your senior loved one are experiencing stress, or feelings of depression and anxiety, you can meet with your G.P. to discuss a mental health plan. If you need immediate support, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 1144.