Understanding Stress and Its Effect on Seniors

Dealing with Stress

You've been waiting your whole life for the freedom of retirement. The golfing. The vacations. The lounging. But now you have to deal with the stress of limited income, health care costs, etc. Learn how to recognize retirement stress and coping mechanisms. Explore how seniors and stress are related and the different places you can get help.

Old Worries, New Cares

Some of the stresses seniors experience stem from the same things that were troubling in younger years. Money, family problems, and work issues don't disappear with age. But the later years bring their own difficulties: illness, the deaths of loved ones, and the changes that come with retirement.

The good news is that seniors can benefit from stress-reduction activities like exercise and mediation. Healthy eating and getting enough sleep are good stress-busters, too.

Recognize the Stress

One of the most difficult aspects of aging is accepting that both your body and your life are changing. It's ok to feel sad if illness prevents you from doing activities you once loved. It's normal to be frustrated when ageism makes it hard to find a new job. Even retirement can be stressful. Many people miss having the company of coworkers and the daily routine work provides.

An important step in dealing with stress is to recognize what's creating it. For example, are you spending most of your energy caring for a loved one or are you worried about making ends meet on your Social Security check?

Facing Up to Stress

Take a good look at what's causing stress in your life. Then evaluate what changes you can make. Here are some ideas for coping with common situations involving stress and seniors.

Stress and Illness

Illness, either your own or a loved one's, can be a major source of stress. If you're the one who is ill:

  • Stay as healthy as you can. Keep your doctor's appointments, take any medicine that's needed, and try to eat right and get enough sleep.
  • Ask for help if you need it. You don't need to do everything on your own. Friends and family may want to help. You doctor may also know of insurance or government programs that could assist you with home care.
  • Talk to a professional. It's normal to feel depressed about your illness. Talking with a counselor or psychologist can help.

If you're the caregiver for a loved one:

  • Don't forget your own needs. Choose healthy foods, get what exercise you can, and stay in touch with friends.
  • Take a break. Respite care is short-term care for your loved one, designed to give you a little time for yourself. Your doctor, minister, insurance representative, or local health department may be able to help you find respite care.
  • Enlist friends and family. It's ok to ask for help with errands and household chores. Ask someone to spend time with your loved one while you run to the grocery store or even just take an hour to yourself.

Stress and Retirement

Retirement can bring worries about money, feelings of isolation, and sense that you're no longer useful. Here are some ways to combat the retirement blues:

  • Face your finances. Create a budget for your retirement years. If possible, meet with a financial planner to make sure your investments and savings match what you'll need for the future.
  • Reach out. Now that you have free time, use it! Make plans with friends and family in advance, so you know you'll get together.
  • Find a new purpose. If work was your life, it's time to find something new to focus on. Volunteer, sign up for classes, or pursue a hobby you never had time for.

Stress and Seniors: Getting Help

When stress becomes overwhelming, it's important to seek help. Many communities have special services to help with the needs of the elderly, including services directed at the causes of stress and seniors' needs.To find services in your area, try the following:

  • Your state, city, or county Department of Health. Some offer volunteer counselors, help with accessing medical care, classes or activities, or respite care programs.
  • Faith-based organizations. You may find a support group through your church, synagogue, or other religious organization. Try faith-oriented community centers, too.
  • Non-profit organizations. Many cities have local organizations that provide Meals on Wheels, help with household and lawn care needs, and other services. The American Red Cross Senior Services division is one place to start.
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Understanding Stress and Its Effect on Seniors