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Stress – causes & how to alleviate it

Experts agree that it is getting increasingly harder for us to unwind.  Many of us feel that this is down to busy lives, crammed schedules and working all hours.

However, elderly people, the disabled and people with specialist care needs can get stressed too. They just have different triggers to start off those stress points.

Tension in the elderly, for example, can be caused by a variety of factors – from the loss of a loved one, uneasiness about care provision, financial hardship or because someone is living alone.

Whatever the cause – the effect of stress or tension on the elderly or someone with specialist care needs, can be very debilitating to a person’s physical health too.

Chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate aging and support comes from studies confirming its adverse effects on immune system function, as well as how we respond to hidden inflammation.

Stress also significantly reduces the immune response to influenza and the pneumococcal vaccine in the elderly.

Key signs for spotting stress in the elderly include:

  • Changes in eating habits, such as over-eating or loss of appetite
  • Increased irritability, general sadness or depression
  • Memory issues or lack of concentration may become a problem. Some seniors may exercise poor judgment, such as excessive spending when they are already on a limited budget.
  • Trouble falling asleep or interrupted night time sleep
  • Isolation, refusing to socialize or participate in activities they used to enjoy.

Work-related stress costs in the region of £4bn to the economy. Plus stress in those that do not work also places an unprecedented burden on the NHS. And, according to Age UK older people as a group are drastically under-represented as users of talking treatments. This might be because there has been a stigma attached to seeing a ‘therapist’ or receiving ‘counselling’

To mark National Relaxation Day, on 15 August, here are Welbeing’s top tips for preventing stress in the elderly, especially if you are a carer.

These include:

  • Sharing it: often sharing a problem can help ventilate emotions and facilitate the learning of different strategies of coping with stress.
  • Stay active: an active social life, healthy lifestyle and relaxation exercises are all useful ways to handle stress.
  • Positive thinking: there is more and more evidence that stopping negative self-talk actually improves a person’s mental wellbeing. Appreciating one’s achievements and strengths can help to enhance self-confidence and to cope with stress.
  • Breathe: monitoring your own breathing for just five minutes can reduce stress levels – whatever the cause.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break it up into 10-minute chunks of time during the day.

A key driver for stress in the elderly, as previously discussed, is living alone or worrying about care provision. One way to take that stress away from your loved ones would be to install one of Welbeing’s Lifeline Personal Alarm.

It is a quick way of getting help at the press of a button if your loved one has an accident or emergency in their home. They may be unable to get to the phone, for instance after falling or because you feel ill.

Welbeing provides a 24-hour, 365-day monitoring service giving loved ones the freedom to live their life independently knowing that they can get assistance when they need it.

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