Life naturally brings varying degrees of stress. Younger bodies are able to recover from serious cases of stress within a matter of days. However, as we age our body becomes less able to cope with stress. The basic effects of stress include muscle tension and aches, anxiety, restlessness and loss of appetite. If stress is left untreated or intensifies, it can lead to social isolation, loss of sleep and depression. When you are older the effects come on much stronger, faster and can leave permanent damage in their wake.
Prevention is key when combatting stress in senior loved ones; these are some warning signs to watch for:
Sudden change in eating habits
Behavior outside of a regularly observed diet, such as over-eating or loss of appetite, is one of the first signs of high stress levels. Everybody’s appetite responds differently to stress. Finding comfort and catharsis in food can lead to weight issues and, more seriously, diabetes and increased risk of heart disease. Should a loved one experience appetite loss, malnutrition and starvation weaken the body and immune system.
Physical distress and pain
Physical discomfort is a peculiar symptom of stress and requires a more careful eye to spot. Loved ones may not always open up about their pain or condition due to embarrassment or stoicism. Stress can cause muscles to tense up and ache. For seniors, this makes movement more difficult than usual and can lead to complete immobility in those with pre-existing conditions. Pain weakens the body and leaves it more at risk for injury, illness and loss of sleep.
Change in mood and behavior
Stress begins, and is most active, in the brain. A weakened, tired mind puts loved ones on edge. This can lead to mood swings, irritability and, in some cases, emotional outbursts or breakdowns. A poor mood can often lead to social withdrawal and refusing to do things they usually enjoy. As their mood declines, it can lead to depression and loneliness.
When our loved ones’ minds are consumed by stress, there’s often little room for anything else. Increased forgetfulness of names, places and events may be the result of other illnesses, but an additional lack of focus is a key identifier. Being distracted may cause loved ones to make poor judgments in their daily life. Excessive spending despite a budget and skipping medication or meal times are some of the behaviors to observe.
Knowing the symptoms and being able to detect and treat stress early on are critical to ensuring your loved one lives a healthy, comfortable life. Light physical activity, such as walking and swimming, indulging in hobbies and spending time with friends are exceptional tension relievers. As you and your loved ones learn how to effectively combat stress, their ability to overcome illness and age in a healthy manner increase significantly.
The Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Home Health Aides (HHAs) referred by Granny NANNIES are understanding and specialize in providing companionship, mobility assistance and transportation services that keep seniors independent. They can also help relieve daily stress and keep our loved ones active and social. We carefully screen CNAs and HHAs for not only the essential legal requirements, but also the kindness and compassion needed to care for others. Founded in 1990, Granny NANNIES offers services that can be personalized to meet the requirements of any individual, regardless of age or need. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we provide quality, trustworthy, reliable and affordable in-home care. For more information on how we can help you, call 800-316-2669.