Stress Awareness Month For Seniors

Stress Awareness Month 2020

April was designated Stress Awareness Month in 1992 as a way to increase public awareness of stress, its causes, and ways to alleviate it. 

Now is a great time to learn about the risks of high stress, effective coping skills, and common myths, particularly as we move forward during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

But COVID-19 isn’t the only pandemic the world is currently facing; it is also in the midst of a modern stress epidemic.

Stress is a regular part of life. But for older adults, it can quickly become overwhelming. And aging itself is stressful, particularly for those with health problems, who are less independent, or live away from loved ones. 

Seniors who live alone can also experience heightened feelings of isolation. And in some cases, stress can intensify current health issues and create more anxiety and worry.

So, how can you tell if someone is dealing with the effects of stress? And how can you help? 

This article can help family caregivers:

  • Tell when someoneis suffering from stress

  • Learn the physical and cognitive impact of stress

  • Recognize signs

  • Lower and maintrain an older adult’s stress levels

Stress Hormones And Aging

When the body is stressed, it releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is detrimental to the hippocampus, which collects and access memories.

Stress hormones are also related to numerous health problems, such as:

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • A more vulnerable immune system

  • Weakened arteries

  • Diminished bone density

The older we get, the more trouble our bodies have controlling hormones. That’s why older adults are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of stress.

You may already know that heightened stress causes wrinkles, but did you know that a growing amount of research supports this? 

Too many stress hormones can spur the aging process and aggravate conditions associated with aging, like dementia.

Signs of Stress

Stress itself isn’t a visible condition, but its effects can be. So with no giveaway symptoms, recognizing chronic stress can be tricky.

But, there are distinct indicators that caregivers and loved ones should be aware of, particularly after a major transition in an elder’s health or life.

Caregivers and loved ones should look for:

  • Appetite change or different eating habits, including overeating or appetite loss. 

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Mood fluctuations, including heightened irritation

    stress-awareness-month-a-stressed-older-man-being-comforted-by-his-wife
    Source: Uplifting Mobility

     

  • Melancholy or depression

  • Increased illnesses, such as the cold or flu

  • Decreased interest in hobbies or everyday pursuits

  • Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol

  • Skin rashes

  • Stomach or headaches

  • Allergic reactions

  • Asthma

  • Difficulty making decisions

All of these indicate that someone is undergoing a great deal of stress. In addition, there are just as many things that can cause heightened tension. 

Cognitive Signs Of Stress

Since elevated stress also affects the mind, it’s essential to look for changes in an elder’s behavior or thought processes.

Family and caregivers should look for these symptoms of cognitive stress:

  • Memory problems, such as forgetting names, places, or things typically remembered easily

  • Poor concentration

  • Reduced judgment, such as unnecessary spending when living on a small budget

Additionally, studies have found a connection between chronic stress and Alzheimer’s, delayed response times, and failure to discern trouble.

Of course, these cognitive symptoms may also stem from other problems like depression, which is closely related to stress.

Loved ones and caregivers should talk with seniors frequently about their emotions to correctly understand their condition. If necessary, consider a therapist or mental health professional. 

Activities To Try During Stress Awareness Month

Stress Awareness Month is the perfect time to try and find new ways to reduce stress for yourself or your loved one. 

With that in mind, here are a few ideas to get started.

Create A Welcoming Environment

Our living conditions play a massive role in our stress levels. Depending on how it was made or sustained, our environment can improve or worsen stress.

For example, substantial amounts of dust and debris can heighten stress levels. Additionally, clutter can lead to tension or feelings of a loss of control. 

A few ways to create less stressful, more relaxing surroundings are:

  • Adding plants

  • Decorating with colorful items

  • Adding personal touches like framed pictures

Consider spring cleaning because a tidy, bright, welcoming, and organized room eases stressful feelings and gives peace of mind.

Be More Social

Engaging with others a highly effective way to lower stress. Urge older adults to interact more with loved ones and friends, whether face-to-face, on the phone, in a letter, or online. 

Encourage them to rekindle old friendships. Or, motivate them to become a part of social groups, whether it’s an exercise class or joining a senior center.

Source: Silver Maples

 

Look for other ways to find meaning. For retirees who devoted themselves to their career, volunteering, enrolling in classes, or developing a hobby is a great way to gain a renewed sense of purpose.

Social support is vital because it prevents loneliness and amplifies acceptance and solidarity, which can lower stress.

Alternatively, a pet could make a great companion for an older adult. There are many great dogs for seniors. But if you’re a cat person, they are also a great low-maintenance choice for seniors, too.

Research shows that the unconditional love pets display naturally lowers stress levels and reduces blood pressure.

Exercise, Maintain A Healthy Diet, And Remember To Breathe

Physical activity doesn’t have to mean a rigorous workout; it can be something as simple as a walk around the block. 

The important part is getting fresh air and some sunshine, which are great natural stress relievers.

Some older adults may have trouble moving because of limited mobility, but there are many activities for seniors, as well as numerous indoor exercises to try.

Eating right and getting consistent quality sleep is another way to manage stress because they promote cell regeneration and many other benefits. 

And of course, when you wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning, you will also feel much less stressed.

Yoga, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing exercises are another way to lower anxious feelings. 

Even taking a moment to gather your thoughts can elevate energy levels and calm stress. Journaling is an excellent way to do this.

Older adults should work with their loved ones or caregiver to form a routine that promotes physical and mental wellness and make it a part of every day.

Stress Awareness Month 2020 | MeetCaregivers

Times are tough, and it’s hard not to think about anything except how stress you feel. 

MeetCaregivers wants to do our part to support seniors, their families, and caregivers. 

So right now, we are offering shopping and food delivery for those who need it because no senior should go hungry

Juggling the responsibilities of caring for an aging parent or loved one can be overwhelming. 

There are no cures for our modern stress epidemic, but there are ways to ease feelings of anxiety and depression.

But you don’t have to do it alone.

Give us a call or message us on our website and see how a qualified caregiver can help you get the break you deserve.

Read more about caregiver burnout and the ways that respite care can help in the Blog.

Call 1-888-541-1136

Source: Enlivant

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