A Guide for Caregivers: Managing Stress in Seniors

Managing stress is easier said than done. To manage stress in daily life, we all first need to understand what causes stress and what it is. The literal definition is the body’s response to any situation that requires action. Simply, we can say that stress is how we react to challenges and unwanted situations.

Following the literal definition, stressors cause stress. Stressors are the biological or chemical agents, external stimuli, or any environmental condition that causes stress to an organism. Anything that is demanding, challenging, or even threatening is a stressor.

Getting away with the stress at a young age is relatively easier, but, at old age, one requires assistance to get away with the stress. Having a caregiver at home to take care of seniors is essential in today’s era. It is primarily because all family members move out to earn a living and elders are left alone to care for themselves. At this age, both the energy and will to do things decrease. As a result, the seniors require assistance, which the caregivers typically provide. But, before delving into how caregivers can assist seniors in managing stress, we must first identify the reasons and causes of stress.

As a family caregiver, you are positioned to take care of the client and look out for the signs of stress and confusion in the client. The next step is to implement stress management strategies for elders. Since, you are aware of your client’s routine, you can gauge what changes arrive in the behavior.

Here are some concerning points that you must search for:

  • Changes in mood and behavior, like an increase in anxiety, indifference, irritability, or even any overactivity.
  • Changes in one’s eating habits, like eating too much or too less
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty in decision-making and concentration
  • Ignoring personal hygiene and self-care
  • Less energy and fatigue
  • Feeling depressed and isolated all the time

These are some of the symptoms that caregivers can look into before taking steps to relieve stress in the elderly. These signs occur due to many factors. If you notice stress in your elders, identifying the source of the stress, also known as the stressor is what you should do first. What is bothering them and causing them so much stress? The possible answers are listed in the following points:

  • Retirement and the financial status
  • Expenses to take care of health
  • Losing a closed one (a relative or a family member or a spouse)
  • Physical hearing issues like loss of hearing, memory, vision
  • Overthinking and believing that you are a burden
  • Suffering from dementia or Alzheimer

The list is endless. There can be many other causes and those would vary from person to person. It is up to the caregiver to identify the causes of stress as per their life and schedule. The daily lifestyle of your client and the usual circumstances can help you in identifying the situations and changes in the seniors. Continuous stress can cause headaches, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Strategies to Reduce Stress in the Seniors

In general, there are two basic approaches to managing stress: holistic stress relief methods and dealing with the source. Both these approaches form the concrete foundation to apply other practices that would help in managing stress levels. For instance, if the source of stress in seniors is the financial burden, you as a caregiver can come up with a plan and look into the possible solutions. Here are some home care tips for caregivers that providers must consider, work on the diet of seniors and re-evaluate it, get more rest, involve the seniors in productive activities, keep them happy and engage them in happy family hours. Other than these, here are some of the practical stress-relieving techniques:

  • Exercise Daily: Stressing your body physically can reduce mental stress. Regular exercise lowers the body’s stress hormones and encourages the release of endorphins in the body. By exercising your body gets tired and it leads to a healthy sleep cycle too. So, if stress is affecting your client’s sleep cycle, it is advisable to engage them in a less tiring and easy exercise. Hardcore exercise is not only the answer. You can also do walking, jogging, or light yoga depending on the age and keeping in mind the other health issues.
  • Listen to the Music: Everyone loves music. Only the taste in music varies. So, listening to soothing, mutative music is another technique one can use to reduce stress. Listening to the slow compositions can slow down your heart rate and keeps your anxiety at bay. It distracts you from all sorts of daily work stress and avoids overthinking. As a caregiver, allow your caregiver to listen to your favorite music before going to the bed.
  • Productive Activities: At an old age, people prefer engaging in simple activities. Painting and art are one of all. Colors bring happiness to lives. So, painting the canvas in colors is also a sort of meditation. As a caregiver, allow elders to paint the adult coloring books with geometric and simple designs. These are some of the stress-free tools. Many researchers have shown that coloring, painting, sketching has quite a meditative effect on the mind. Getting deeply involved in such activities can help relieve stress and anxiety. Seniors and caregivers both can benefit from getting into the creative aspect because at the end of the day, you will have something beautiful to showcase and be happy about. A productive day will always turn out to be a big win, both for the caregivers as well as the seniors.
  • Breathing and Meditation: Deep breathing daily for five minutes will do wonders. Simply focusing on breathing and changing the breath pattern will make a world of difference. This practice is simple and does not require any set environment. Whether you are sitting on a chair, or in the garden, this can be done without the requirement of any external tool. Meditation is another technique that does not require you to move from your place. By being at your favorite spot, you can attain happiness and reduce stress. Few minutes of meditation will also bring positivity and energize the body.
  • A Healthy Diet: What you eat has a lot to do with how you feel. If you eat healthy and a clean diet, you will feel good the whole day. So, what you put in your stomach is another basic yet important technique. Feed your body well, and keep your mind healthy. Healthy food includes reduced caffeine, sugar, fats, and junk. Lessening the intake of refined carbs and reducing emotional eating will also bring in lots of health benefits.
  • Laughter is the Best Medicine: Research has proven this time and again. Laughing relaxes the muscles and relieves the nervous system’s response to stress. Laughter also enhances the intake of oxygen-rich air, increases endorphins, and stimulates the lungs, heart, and muscles. As a caregiver, spend some time watching shows that bring happiness and make elders smile, for instance, comedy shows. This is something you do not have to buy from any store. Laugh, live happily. Laughter is free and quite affordable. So, never give up that ever.
  • Meet and Greet: Old age does not mean you have to stay alone in isolation. If you feel overwhelmed, plan a meet with your near and dear ones. Meaningful connections and social support can relieve stress and bring happiness. Meeting closed ones gives you a sense of value and belonging. Not just this, hugging someone closed to you can help lower cortisol which further helps in lowering the blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Independence: With age, adults lose some of their independent skills. The transition can be stressful as they tend to feel burdened on others. They start to feel less valued and feel isolated. So, it is important to make them feel a part of the society and more value with time. With the passing time, they demand validation and that caregivers should help them with the same. An in-home caregivers assistance can help in striking the balance between independence and dependence. Involving them in some of the day-to-day easy household chores will also make them feel valued. For instance, involve them in folding clothes, making laundry, setting the dinner table, making their cupboard, etc. Such activities will help them contribute to the housework and make them feel independent.
  • Positive Goal Setting: We are never too old to set dreams and goals. Set achievable goals with the seniors. For example, as a caregiver, you can ask them to continue sticking to one healthy schedule for a week, or you can ask them to achieve a goal of daily meditating and practicing yoga. Such goals will not only encourage a healthy lifestyle but will also give them a purpose in life. They will look up to every day for achieving the set goal. As a caregiver, you have to explore the possibilities for inspired goals for your elder clients.

Whenever you Feel Blue?

Stress is a part of life. But, when it gets chronic, you would require taking control of it and using stress-relieving methods. Seniors and caregivers, both are easy prey the stress. Both groups are prone to getting stressed and depressed. Non-medical caregivers take care of people and put their whole mental, physical selves into delivering the best care. In the process, they tend to forget about self-care, which leads to a stressful life whereas; seniors suffer because of age. But, for both parties, here is a quick fix:

  • Attending courses and classes online
  • Going outside in the sunshine
  • Spending time in the lap of nature
  • Sunshine and nature can revitalize an aging adult
  • Get involved in gardening
  • Maintaining a gratitude journal
  • Playing with a pet
  • Taking a power nap
  • Trying new hobbies

Conclusion

Stress management is of utmost importance, especially in today’s time. The world has dealt with the pandemic and the most affected were the elders. The opportunity to help someone, provide care and support is the first step to relieving the stress that comes with age. Now, as caregivers you understand stress, what causes it, and how to manage it, you can help seniors in dealing with the mental health issue. While taking care of others, caregivers themselves are prone to experiencing burnout. So, you must keep yourself out of a stressful situation. Even a small step towards the right direction will relieve a lot of stress from the mind and make life fulfilling.

So, look out for helpful and trustworthy resources to take care of your elder loved ones and after proper scrutiny, hire a caregiver. Your one good decision would bring a positive change in the life of your loved ones.

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