The Role Stress Plays in Developing Chronic Disease Among Seniors
What does stress have to do with chronic disease?
You may have asked yourself this very question, but stress plays an extremely important role in developing chronic diseases in people of all ages.
We know that stress can take its toll on all of us, young and old, but let’s take a look at how it affects our seniors particularly.
As we get older, our bodies have already handled many years of stress.
Think about it, most of us have worked for fifty-plus years, raised children, maintained a home, had surgeries/illnesses, lost loved ones, among the many other things that get thrown at us; this is called life, and it can be very stressful.
A huge factor as we age is that our immune system starts faltering and we can’t fend off illnesses like we were once able to do.
Stress can make a person extremely ill, it can cause so many ailments and as seniors, you cannot fight them as easily.
It’s very important to keep your immune system healthy, read our blog about the best foods to eat to live longer and healthier.
Anything can trigger stress when you’re older. Seniors spend much more time alone, which may sound wonderful to someone who is younger and busy with a family, but to a senior, this is a stressor because they have no one to talk to or socialize with and become lonely.
It’s much easier for a senior to become stressed because they have more time to ponder about their situation. Stress can kill anyone, but when they stress about being stressed, it will kill them quicker.
Stressing over stress can lead to respiratory issues, insomnia, sometimes paranoia, and chronic diseases such as renal failure and heart disease.
It can cause other serious ailments to develop as well such as psoriasis, eczema, and hair loss. Gastrointestinal issues can develop also like colitis, IBS, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and GERD.
So, let’s look at what happens to our bodies when we are stressed?
We experience headaches, heartburn, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, and many other serious health problems.
Stress has played a major role in heart attacks among young people, let alone our senior population.
For seniors, this can lead to debilitating mental health illnesses, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If you think about it, it makes sense that seniors would stress over being alone and develop a chronic illness.
Look at their life-style, especially since COVID-19, what have they done? Where have they gone? How many friends have they visited? How many times have they seen their children or grandchildren? I’ll bet not very many, even without the pandemic, people live busy lives, and sometimes you can’t visit as often.
If you are a caregiver, you may ask, “How can I reduce my seniors stress level?”
It’s extremely important that you do not change their routine. Structure is one thing that will stress them out if it’s changed.
I don’t think any of us like our routine changed, it throws the whole day off when something like you sleep late and don’t have your two cups of coffee and have to rush to where you’re going.
Keep the structure the same.
Make them laugh as often as possible. Laughter is one of the best stress relievers. When we stress, our body tightens up and laughing helps relax those tightened muscles which decreases the stress level.
Watch a silly sitcom, tell some corny jokes, anything to get them laughing. The old saying is true, laughter IS the best medicine!
Try to get them outside for a walk if possible.
The fresh air and sunshine will help alleviate stress levels and improve their mood. If you can’t go for a walk, take them out to lunch or dinner, something to get them out of the house and improve their outlook.
The senior is left alone and all they do is think about how much they miss the interaction with another person, a hug, a kiss, a laugh. What happens?
Depression happens and then stress, then a chronic illness if they’re not able to seek help. Sometimes they need to be placed into an assisted living community for twenty-four-hour care.
This sounds like it isn’t right, but what can we do? We can try to make their life as stress-free as possible. Sounds easy, right?
If you have an elderly loved one living alone, please think about assisted living before it’s too late.
Assisted living has changed a lot over the years, seniors have interaction with others their own age. This aids in stopping their stress and depression all while helping them thrive and live a happier life.