Changing lifestyles, decreased mobility, and challenges with activities of daily living can all lead to increased stress among seniors, and stress is a leading contributor to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Caregivers can play a role in helping their senior loved ones ease stress, which helps to boost mental health. Let’s take a look at some resources for caretakers and family members to help the seniors in their care.
Know the Signs of Senior Stress
Seniors experiencing stress don’t often realize it, and if they do, they may be hesitant to seek help. That’s why it’s important for caregivers to recognize the common signs of stress in seniors so that you can take steps to help them reduce stress and improve their mental and physical well-being. Common signs of stress in seniors include changes in eating habits (such as reduced appetite), changes in sleep patterns, memory issues, frequent illness, and a decreased desire to participate in social activities.
Bridge the Generational Gap
Bringing seniors together with younger generations can make a dramatic difference in a senior’s mental health and contribute to reduced stress. Encouraging senior citizens to participate in community activities that bring generations together, or making arrangements for regular quality time spent with grandchildren are two ways to make this happen. These activities allow seniors to share stories about their life experiences, while children and young adults benefit from the experience as well.
Get Involved in Activities That Allow for Creative Expression
Creativity is engaging and mentally stimulating, and it’s also a great stress-reliever for older adults. Based on your senior loved one’s interests, seek out programs in your local community such as painting classes, yoga, or senior-friendly dance. Having a creative outlet will keep your aging loved one engaged socially and cognitively...reducing isolation, cognitive decline, and stress.
Make Home Modifications to Improve Accessibility and Safety
Mobility challenges later in life are one of the main reasons seniors become socially isolated, and these challenges can make daily life stressful. When an older adult struggles to get in and out of the bathtub or climb the stairs frequently, they tend to simply avoid these tasks. Eventually, some older adults stop leaving their homes because it’s simply too difficult. There are many disability services that specialize in home renovations that make homes safer and more accessible for seniors (many in home care companies can help with this, too).
Arrange Shared Meals with Friends and Family
Food plays an important role in many cultures, and the tradition of sharing meals with family creates time for bonding, sharing stories about one another’s work or school day, and provides a greater sense of belonging. Getting your aging loved one involved in meals at the local senior center or their church is one way to help them gain the benefits of enjoying meals with friends. If family lives nearby, arrange for a periodic family meal at someone’s home or a local café or restaurant to help your senior remain socially connected to their family and community.
Consider Pet Adoption for Companionship
While a pet shouldn’t be the only social interaction an older adult has, a furry friend can provide tremendous benefits for seniors. In fact, pets are often used for therapy for older adults, with pet therapy organizations bringing cats and dogs for visits with residents in senior living communities and hospital patients. Even short interactions with pets has shown to provide stress-reduction benefits, lifting seniors’ moods and easing loneliness. There are even robotic toys for seniors that simulate real pets without the need for maintenance!
Stress can be detrimental to a senior’s physical and mental health, contributing to physical ailments, chronic disease, cognitive decline, as well as depression and anxiety. By taking steps to ensure that your aging loved one remains socially connected, has access to a safe living environment and a variety of activities that can provide a sense of belonging, you can play an important role in boosting your loved one’s mental health.
Jim Vogel and his wife, Caroline, created ElderAction.org after they began caring for their ailing parents. Through that rewarding and sometimes difficult process they’ve learned a lot about senior care and specifically the need for more effective senior mental health and support. Their site offers elder-positive resources and other helpful information on aging. In his spare time, Jim loves fishing, reading, and spending time with his kids.