A Houston Caregiver Addresses How Stress Affects Older Adults
Whenever your body senses it is in danger, signals are sent by your brain to your muscle to tighten them and to your adrenal glands so that stress hormones will be released. Stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, for your senses to sharpen, your blood pressure to go up and your breath to start to quicken. Those physiological changes cause your reaction time to speed up, enhances your focus, improves your stamina, and increases your strength. This reaction is called the stress response. It is necessary for survival and is completely normal. After your brain has accepted that you are actually not in danger, it results in your body returning to its normal state. On the other hand, chronic stress harms your health and can be especially hazardous for elderly adults. The following is the important thing that you need to be aware of about stress in elderly adults.
How Stress Affects Older Adults
Although it is hard to determine the exact effect that chronic stress has on the health of the elderly, there is definitely a correlation. The following are several of the ways that stress affects seniors.
Lowered Immune System
Most likely there has been a time in life when you were very stressed out and you ended up becoming sick. This situation most likely became even more stressful for you when you were forced to put everything that you were stressing about on hold so that you can recover. You might not realize that “being stressed” most likely is why you became sick in the first place. Stress suppresses the immune system, which causes it to be more susceptible to becoming ill.
Also, older adults are more susceptible already to illness from their immune systems being suppressed by age-related factors. When these factors are combined it makes it easier for the elderly to get sick and for the recovery process to take longer. This results in stress being much hard for elderly adults to both detect and fight.
Stress may flood your body full of adrenaline, and that can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. However, the relationship between heart disease and stress extends well beyond factors that are quantifiable. Stress may also cause seniors to seek relief by engaging in activities like drug use, overeating, and excessive drinking. Each of those activities may damage blood vessels, arteries, and increase the risk of heart disease.
Hearing and Vision Loss
Long-term production of adrenaline may constrict the blood vessels, which can result in temporary decreases in vision and hearing.
Stress may literally make you sick to your stomach. The sick feeling occurs whenever the “fight or flight” response is activated by stress within your central nervous system. YOur central nervous system may shut down the flow of blood, and cause your digestive muscles to contract, as well as cause a decrease in secretions that are needed for digestion. Severe or chronic stress might lead to severe digestive problems like ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
It is very common for dental problems to increase as we grow older, which makes seniors much more susceptible to cavities and fractures. Stress may contribute to those dental issues whenever they clench their jaws stressfully over the course of the day or grind their teeth unintentionally.
Common Stressors For Seniors
Stressors frequently change as you continue to age. The following are some of the more common stressors that older adults experience.
Changes in Physical Ability or Health
For aging adults, health may be a major stressor.
- Healthcare costs.
- Increased dependence on other people.
- Deteriorating health.
For seniors, it can be very frustrating to lose energy, since it forces them to slow their lives down.
Being unable to do the things they enjoy the most.
Isolation and Loneliness
Isolation and loneliness are two of the most common stressors that aging adults experience. The following are a couple of examples of why the elderly are especially susceptible to isolation and loneliness.
- Loss of a spouse. Losing a spouse to divorce or death is common among seniors.
- Loss of family members, pets, or friends. Many elderly adults feel lonely after the loss of a pet, friend, or family members. Regardless of whether this loss was due to a conflict, relocation or death, this event may cause an elderly person to isolation themselves, which increases their feelings of both loneliness and isolation.
Lack of Purpose
Seniors who are lacking in a sense of purpose can be more susceptible to developing stress and being affected by its harmful effects. The following are a couple of situations where an elderly person might not feel a sense of purpose or question it.
- Loss of community position.
- Loss of feeling that they are needed.
- Retirement. Seniors who have defined themselves based on their career frequently lose that sense of purpose after they retire.
Loss of Independence
A stress response can be triggered when independence is lost. The following are a couple of reasons why an elderly person might feel that their independence has been threatened.
- Not being able to drive safely any longer. Many elderly people experience reduced mobility, which can result in them losing their driver’s license.
- Being unable to live alone. Elderly individuals with disabilities frequently can no longer live alone, which forces them to be dependent on others.
- Loss of control over their daily routine. Decreases in mobility might force seniors to rely on others to help them with their daily living activities.
- Lack of transportation services. There are often limited transportation options for seniors which can make it hard for the elderly to do things by themselves.
- Decrease financial independence. Being unable to manage their money any longer can be challenging to a senior’s feeling of independence.
- Increased healthcare costs. Seniors may end up being financially dependent due to increasing healthcare costs.
Recognize the Symptoms and Signs of Stress in Elderly Adults:
- Shortness of breath
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Frequent crying
- Poor concentration
- Feeling out of control
- Negative attitude or feelings
- Pain and headaches
- Unnecessary worrying
- Feeling tired
If a loved one or you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is critical to be proactive and find ways that you can manage your stress effectively before there is irreversible damage.
5 Tips To Help Manage Stress
The following are a couple of techniques to help you reduce your stress.
- Take good care of yourself by eating a well-balanced and healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis.
- Become involved in your community.
- Volunteer for a worthy cause.
- Learn strategies that can help you better cope with your stress like meditation and relaxation techniques.
- Focus on those things that you can control and not those that you can’t.