As people grow older, they can face some expected — and unexpected — side effects of aging. These challenges can truly increase stress on a senior. A variety of stressors can arise, such as retirement or being a caregiver for a spouse or even grandchildren. These, as well as worrying about mental and physical health, can take a toll on older adults. Below are common health and aging stressors seniors and their loved ones should be aware of as people grow older.
Caring for Loved Ones
Seniors may take care of a spouse or grandchildren which can cause stress for them as caregivers. As people grow older, they need to pay attention to their own needs. Unfortunately, if they are taking care of a loved one, they can be more focused on others instead of themselves. According to Aging Care, seniors who are caregivers have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than seniors of the same age who are not caregivers. For those who take on kinship care, seniors who raise grandchildren can lose leisure time, traveling opportunities, and other areas of independence in exchange for taking grandchildren to school and sports lessons. Stress from being a caregiver can take the forms of withdrawal, insomnia, and even anger.
As people work, many of them dream about the day they get to retire and travel the world with their spouse or buy the houseboat they’ve never been able to stop thinking about. Sadly, retirement is not always as happy-go-lucky as the TV commercials portray. According to Forbes, retirement is one of the most stressful events seniors go through because people retire or are forced to retire as other challenging events are happening, such as the death of a loved one or struggling with declining health. Retirement can also lead to financial concerns as well as relationship challenges, both of which can bring on even more stress. There may also be financial challenges with maintaining their home as well. And while many seniors find it beneficial to downsize, even then there’s the stress of moving and going through all their possessions.
As people grow older, it is natural for there to be physical decline, but that doesn’t mean people don’t stress about it. As physical challenges begin to increase, people can have a hard time adjusting. In turn, as seniors stress about their personal physical challenges, stress can spurn on new ones. Stress can result in heart problems, a lowered immune system, and even vision and hearing loss. This circular spiral can only make the concern for physical challenges increase. Some ways to battle stress to help stop this cycle can include practicing deep-breathing meditation and listening to music.
Mental Health Decline
A senior’s mental health is truly challenged as they grow older. This can result in diseases like dementia, but it can also include anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression arise due to battling stress and constantly hearing and talking about the loss of loved ones and friends. Elderly depression can show itself in a variety of ways including consistent sadness, irritability, and changes in eating habits. Anxiety appears in ways such as uncontrollable worry, being tired around the clock, and very tense muscles.
As external stressors can increase mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression, seniors can find help by reaching out to a mental health professional. Medicare Part B can help cover the costs as it offers a range of mental health services including counseling and even a yearly depression screening.
Abuse From Caregivers or Family Members
As seniors face mental and physical decline, they often switch from being a caregiver to needing one. Unfortunately, many seniors face abuse from caregivers and even loved ones. It might just not be exploitation, as seen by the collection of assets and money, but seniors can be abused physically, sexually, and emotionally, as well as face neglect. Being abused — especially by someone the senior truly loves and trusts — can be deeply stressful and lead to anxiety and depression. If elder abuse is suspected, it’s important to reach out to the local adult protective services or law enforcement.
Growing older can be very stressful on people. Hitting a certain age once meant wisdom and living a life of relaxation through retirement, but as seniors face challenges and changes in their lives, it’s important to be aware of how this can impact them mentally and physically.
Post contributed by Kent Elliot at AtHomeAging.info