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Stress in the Elderly – Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention

Stress affects people of all ages and is a natural reaction of our bodies. In older people, stress can show differently than in adults or children. Counseling helps relieve seniors' stress.

Stress in the Elderly

Stress in the Elderly in Brief

Whenever our bodies face challenges they are not accustomed to, they respond with stress. At a biological level, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released to prepare us to face the challenge. Under stress, we are mentally more alert and focused—our circulation and heart rate increase. 

Stress is part of the body’s natural fight or flight reaction. Alongside the biological response, there are also mental and emotional consequences. Stress in adults is often associated with balancing careers and family life. In children, stress may be caused by academic demands or peer pressure. 

At first sight, it is easy to think seniors do not have much reason to be stressed. But stress reactions are just as usual in older people as at other ages. Like children and adults, older people are facing significant life changes. They may also be affected by failing health. Some struggle with their financial situation. Not everyone has a family or friends to support them through stressful periods. 

Stress counseling for seniors can be beneficial in limiting stress responses and relieving signs and symptoms. 

Senior Stress Signs & Symptoms

Stressed seniors tend to display different signs and symptoms from people of other age groups. However, like other ages, their signs and symptoms can be divided into physical and emotional changes. Some seniors will display various signs and symptoms, while others may only be suffering from one or two. 

Physical signs and symptoms of stress in the elderly include:

  • Poor appetite, leading to weight loss
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Tiredness and disturbed sleep
  • Increasing illness

Common emotional or mental signs and symptoms may comprise:

  • Inability to concentrate 
  • Sudden memory problems
  • Mood swings, leading to irritability and even depression
  • Focus on negatives rather than taking a balanced view
  • Diminished interest in hobbies

Another common sign of stress in older people is a refusal to socialize and meet others. Stressed seniors try to isolate themselves and stop participating in their everyday activities. Unlike some more subtle symptoms of stress, this refusal to socialize is something that friends or family members may find easier to notice. 

    Causes of Stress in Seniors

    Older people tend to become stressed for different reasons than adults of other ages and children. 

    One of the significant causes of stress in seniors is the transition from living independently to an assisted living facility (ALF). Even if the facility offers a considerable degree of independence, this lifestyle change marks the beginning of the last phase of someone’s life. Accepting this is difficult for many. 

    Stress-related to that transition is not limited to the move itself, although that may add to heightened stress levels. Other stressors may include needing to accept more help and relying on others. 

    For many seniors, getting older means dealing with failing health. Chronic illnesses put additional physical stress on the body. Having to deal with the consequences of failing health can trigger emotional stress. Most seniors are not only concerned about their health. They may be caring for a sick spouse and may be concerned about their ability to cope. 

    Getting older means being exposed to loss and grief. As people age, they have to face the death of relatives or loved ones more regularly. Dealing with grief and loss can be hugely stressful. 

    Financial insecurity is another common cause of stress in the elderly. Worrying about making ends meet, paying for care, and covering medical bills can quickly lead to high-stress levels that are hard to manage.

    Treatment of Stress in the Elderly

    Stress may be a natural reaction of the body, but a chronic state of stress can weaken a person’s immune system and make them more susceptible to illness. Chronic stress can also be detrimental to an older person’s mental health. Over time, raised stress levels to limit an older person’s quality of life. 

    For those reasons, seniors should have easy access to treatment for chronic stress and receive the support they need. One of the most effective forms of treatment, no matter the cause of stress, is counseling for seniors. 

    Counseling is a form of talk therapy that can be delivered in a person’s home or an assisted living facility. Online counseling sessions are also efficient. Behavioral and mental health counseling sessions can take different forms in individuals. 

    However, many counselors follow these steps:

    Assessment

    Counselors start by assessing their clients to understand the underlying causes of their stress. They need to know whether the leading causes of stress are physical, mental, or a combination of both.

    Treatment plan

    Based on their assessment, mental health professionals suggest a treatment plan customized to the individual they are working with. 

    Sessions begin

    Behavioral health counseling helps develop better-coping strategies. Many counselors also encourage positive routines and behaviors that limit stress responses. Most older people benefit from both types of counseling. 

    Review

    Despite a thorough assessment, counseling sessions may not be immediately practical. That is why counselors regularly review their approach and its results with their clients and adjust it if necessary. 

    Effects of Stress on Seniors

    Chronic stress can limit an older person’s quality of life drastically. They may no longer be able to participate in favorite activities and miss out on some of the best years of their lives. Dealing with raised levels of stress hormones over a long time can lead to inflammation and predispose older people to additional health problems. 

    As we get older, some of the natural functions of our bodies no longer work as efficiently. That is why positive eating habits, including regular meals and healthy dietary choices, are so important. When older people are stressed, they tend to stop eating or skip meals – to the detriment of their overall health. 

    Regular exercise is another component of aging well and staying healthy into old age. However, stress may cause older people to feel tired or simply disinterested in pursuing exercise. This lack of movement may predispose them to other mental and physical health problems. 

    How does TrueCare™’s Stress Counseling Help Seniors?

    TrueCare™’s stress counseling services are based on a unique, adaptive approach. There is no one-size-fits-all program. Instead, counselors assess each client individually and develop a treatment plan according to their diagnosis.

    TrueCare™’s counseling services are highly flexible. Seniors can meet their counselor in the counselor’s office or opt to have the counselor come to their home. They can also access counseling sessions online if that is more convenient. These services are also available in assisted living facilities. 

    TrueCare™ has developed a specific behavioral health services program for ALF and its residents. The program’s goal is to smooth the transition from independent to assisted living and help build healthy, positive behaviors and establish new routines. 

    FAQs on Stress in Seniors

    Why do seniors get stressed?

    Older people may experience stress for a variety of reasons. Some struggle with significant transitions in their lives. Others find it hard to manage chronic illness and medication. As people get older, they tend to experience more loss and grief than younger people. It can be another cause of stress. 

    How can I tell elderly relatives are stressed?

    There are several physical and emotional signs and symptoms that relatives may be able to observe. Stressed older adults may try to withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves. You may also keep altered eating habits, sleep problems, and increased irritability. Signs and symptoms can vary widely from one person to another.

    How can stress in the elderly be treated?

    Behavioral and mental health counseling is one of the most effective ways to address stress in the elderly. As a form of talk therapy, counseling allows a mental health professional to find and address the causes of a person’s stress and develop better coping mechanisms.

    Where can older people with mobility problems access counseling services?

    TrueCare™’s counseling services are accessible in several ways. Seniors who cannot travel to a therapist’s office can opt for online counseling services. In-home counseling is an option if they prefer to meet with their counselor in person. Plus, these services are also available to assisted living facilities.

    How many counseling sessions will be necessary?

    The number of counseling sessions depends on the individual and their concerns. There is no fixed number of sessions that works for everyone. However, stress counseling can quickly show positive effects, and most clients start to feel better within just a few sessions. 

    About TrueCare™

    TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.
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