Solutions to Late Life Stress

 March 2015

By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions®

Everyone experiences stress in some form or another at various points in their life.

In late life, stress may be experienced both by older adults or their adult children as health, social and financial issues arise.  The stress may be categorized as “positive” stress, the kind that helps people develop the skills they need to cope with and adapt to new and threatening situations, or as “negative” stress, which may be severe enough to overwhelm a person and hinder their ability to care for themselves. Having healthy ways to cope with stress helps put problems in perspective for everyone, allowing stressful feelings and symptoms to subside.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, common reactions to a stressful event may include:

  • Feeling sad, frustrated, and helpless
  • Fear and anxiety about the future
  • Feeling guilty
  • Anger, tension, and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Crying
  • Reduced interest in usual activities
  • Isolation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Reoccurring thoughts of the event
  • Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems
  • Increased heart rate, difficulty breathing
  • Smoking or use of alcohol or drugs

Healthy Ways to Cope

Most experts offer the same basic guidelines to take to help individuals cope with these symptoms of stress

  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out
  • Try to organize your thoughts and surroundings
  • Share your problems, how you are feeling and how you are coping with others
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.

For older adults, the use of these techniques is helpful; however seniors often experience compound stressors that affect several facets of life at the same time.  Studies by the NCBI on late life stress indicate the impact of stress on a senior-adult’s mental or physical well-being may be lessened or even prevented with the right kind of support and as individuals learn to overcome or “master” stressful situations.  The study revealed that older individuals who recognize stressful life events as challenging, but who 1.had time to prepare and 2. engaged problem-solving techniques to manage  the events, were more likely to benefit than suffer from those events. Those who tried to avoid the events or who suffered from chronic stress were less likely to benefit.

Time to Prepare

A common stressor in late life is determining where and how the older adult should live or be cared for, especially when a decline in mental and physical health is anticipated. Today we are fortunate to have many lifestyle and care options, including care at home, life care in community, nursing homes and assisted living. Yet, the decisions must still be made. Some older adults postpone their long term care decision, choosing avoidance behavior over planning. When crisis strikes, this tactic usually leads to hasty decisions being made by individuals other than the senior adult. This approach not only generates more stress for the older adult, but also for the decision-makers. Typically all parties find themselves suffering symptoms of stress listed above. 

Other seniors may adopt a more instrumental role in their own future, taking a pro-active approach to care and housing. They research options well ahead of their need and communicating their wishes to friends and family. They solicit advice from trusted individuals and engage the services attorneys, financial planners, care managers, placement services and relocation specialists, such as Caring Transitions®.

Problem-Solving Techniques

Like planning ahead, problem-solving techniques can also help individuals “master” stressful situations. Basic problem-solving starts with a thorough understanding of the problem

  • What is happening?
  • Where and when it is happening?
  • Why it is happening?
  • Who is involved and why and how do they feel?

The next step is to determine the aspects of the problem over which you actually have some control.  It is best to focus on issues you can realistically change so these aspects of the problem become the focus of your next steps which include

  • Dividing the problem into smaller pieces
  • Gathering information
  • Reviewing options
  • Determining best solutions for each piece
  • Selecting solutions
  • Taking action
  • Evaluating results

At Caring Transitions®, we know how to help mitigate late life stress. We apply our expert problem-solving techniques that support you and your family before, during and after a “senior move”, downsizing, decluttering or liquidation project. As the nation’s expert in the field, we have developed a list of comprehensive services for this specific purpose. Our services include all the solutions you need such as planning, organizing, move management, packing, unpacking, professional estate sale and online auction.  We have designed our cutting edge technologies and trained and vetted our professional staff in order to provide the best possible resources for you and your family. And with our extensive network of offices and partners, we can support your late life transition coast to coast.

Your “total solution” begins here. Contact us today for a free in-home estimate.