Long-term stress can really take a toll on the body, from triggering depression to weakening the immune system. Elderly adults often deal with tremendous amounts of stress but don’t realize it. Family caregivers need to learn to recognize the symptoms of long-term stress in their aging relatives so they can get them the help they need.
The effects of long-term stress on the body are startling. Stress can lead to fatigue, weight gain or loss, headaches, damaged brain cells, depression, anxiety, diminished cognitive ability, loss of memory and an increased risk of getting cancer or heart disease. Elderly adults are already susceptible to many of these health challenges, so long-term stress only increases the likelihood. However, seniors don’t have to live with stress, because there are many things that they and their family members can do to manage it.
Among the top symptoms of long-term stress in seniors are mood swings and increased irritability. Other red flags for caregivers include insomnia, unexplained aches and pains, diminished appetite, heartburn, isolation and lethargy. In extreme cases, elderly adults can develop depression or anxiety as a result of long-term stress. Once family caregivers, senior care aides, doctors and the elderly adults themselves recognize the symptoms of stress, they can take steps toward managing it.
There are many things that family caregivers and their aging relatives can do to manage stress:
- Get plenty of sleep
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid caffeine, drugs, and alcohol
- Get regular massages
- Spend time with friends and family
- Listen to calming music
- Read an uplifting book
- Take a walk
- Connect with nature
- Do tai chi or yoga for seniors
- Develop a hobby
- Hire a senior care provider to assume household duties like cooking and cleaning
- See a therapist
Stress won't automatically disappear from an elderly person’s life and it can take several days or weeks or even months for the effects of stress to leave the body. For some elderly adults, stress management is an ongoing process that requires support from family members and senior care assistants. In extreme cases, doctors may have to step in and prescribe medication to help stressed seniors deal with the chronic conditions that are a result of long-term stress.
The good news is that when family caregivers start paying attention to what causes their loved ones stress and watching for those warning signs, they can take action to help. Bringing in senior care for an elderly loved one who is under stress, and also to relieve a stressed family caregiver, can be invaluable to a family's way of life. It's not too late for senior care providers to implement stress management techniques into a senior's daily routine, to ensure the best physical and mental wellness.