How Stress Affects Seniors
Aging comes with a multitude of new, unexpected stressors. Many of them are due to circumstance, meaning that they’re issues your senior loved one has never handled before. Among the causes are chronic illnesses, the loss of a spouse, and adjusting to major lifestyle changes concerning retirement, finances, and moving to long-term care facilities. Stress initiates fight-or-flight responses in your body. Chronic stress, or stress that is experienced on an on-going basis, can negatively impact blood pressure, psychiatric conditions (depression, anxiety, etc.), the GI tract, the heart, and the immune system.
How to Manage Stress
Stress can manifest in a lot of ways. Common symptoms that accompany chronic stress in the elderly are tension headaches, indigestion, heart palpitations, poor concentration, irritability, and crying, among others. It is vital to treat both the symptoms and cause of chronic stress, because they can have devastating effects on the elderly. Stress worsens already-existing chronic health conditions including those that most commonly affect older people, like diabetes and high blood pressure. If you or a loved one is experiencing stress in any capacity, the following options may help!
Meditation and mindfulness are helpful for people of all ages experiencing stress, but they’re especially beneficial for the elderly. For one, meditation and mindfulness can be performed in any comfortable, neutral position, which makes them possible for any range of mobility. Similarly, meditation and mindfulness are low energy, requiring no impact on the body. Lastly, meditation and mindfulness improve deficiencies that tend to affect the elderly most. Both help improve memory, activate the “happy” part of the brain, and even promote better digestion, immunity, breathing, and circulation.
Yoga takes meditation and mindfulness a step further. It accompanies physical movements with thinking, breathing, and stress-relieving exercises. Many of us picture obscure poses when imagining yoga, but yoga for seniors picks poses well within the strength, flexibility, and range of motion for someone older. Yoga comes with many physical benefits, and acts as a tool for managing things like weight and diabetes. Beyond this, though, yoga reduces stress and boosts moods.
For seniors who possess the ability, physical exercise can be incredibly beneficial in many ways. Exercise gives a physical outlet to the non-tangible stress we experience. The best exercises are typically simple, aerobic exercises. Walking is easiest for most. A great alternative is anything in the water, like swimming and water aerobics class. Any exercise in the water reduces stress and improves muscle tone without putting excess pressure on joints and bones.
For many, stress is directly correlated to a tragic or traumatic situation. As one ages, they face many lifestyle changes that directly impact their emotional state, such as the passing of a spouse or close friend, or moving into a long-term care facility. Support groups help heal many forms of bereavement.
Agility Health’s Social Services
Agility Health knows that coping with stress can seem impossible. Patients who are sick, disabled, or limited by their age may feel like there’s no one to help them navigate options that fit their health and finances. At Agility Health, our care managers and medical social workers help make individualized recommendations for patients both within the community and via federal services. We’re always happy to lend a helping hand, alleviating stress and improving the quality of life for your loved one. With Agility Health, you’re never facing the burdens of in-home health care alone. Call today to meet with our experienced medical social counselors, and start living stress-free.