After a lifetime of independence and responsibility, seniors begin to find their age and ailments are forcing them to change the way they manage their lives. They may have a loss of vision, hearing, strength, or feel confused or lonely. It is learning to cope with the losses brought about by aging that is the primary cause of stress in the elderly. Understanding that will help you formulate a plan for your loved one that will address that stress.
For the last few years of her life my mother lived with me. Though I had to relocate her from New York to Alabama I helped her to learn her new surroundings and enjoy the new climate. She always missed New York but accepted that she could no longer live alone. That experience, along with my professional experience has helped me learn how to assist families to reduce stress in their loved ones.
Here are 5 tips that will help reduce the stress your loved one may be experiencing.
1- Create a schedule – By creating a schedule and posting in on their wall they will always know what will be occurring on any given day. They can look at it and plan for tomorrow. It gives them a sense of control over their activities. Feeling in control decreases stress in everyone. Don’t feel that you are helping by keeping their schedule – let them in on it. Remember they are still adults and should not be treated like a child just because they have become more dependent on you.
2- Be reliable and dependable – If you are expected to arrive to take them somewhere make sure you show up. And if you have an emergency and cannot get there make sure to call. It is extremely stress producing if they are waiting for you and you are late and they are afraid that you may have been hurt – or they have an appointment to get to and will be late. Seniors need to know they can trust you to be where you say you will be when you are expected.
3- Familiar surroundings – Seniors like to be in their own home. They feel safest when they know where their things are and are among their possessions. You may feel bringing mom to live with you will decrease her stress but more than likely the new surroundings and family activities will only add to her stress. I was lucky that my mother adjusted fairly easily because I had no choice but to relocate her. In my case she was happier being with me in Alabama than alone in New York. But you should still try to let you loved one live at home as long as possible. You may need to provide them with an alert button to wear around their neck. And you might want to consider meeting the neighbors and see if someone can look in on them when you cannot be there.
4- Talk to them – As a Medicare provider I have many seniors coming into my office for counseling. Most of the time they are lonely and want someone to talk to. Almost every senior that comes into my office hugs me when they leave and tells me they love me. Since I’m not all that lovable I have to assume that it’s the hour of undivided attention they receive that makes them feel so appreciative of our relationship. Just spending time with your senior will reduce stress.
5- Pain relief – Pain is a very serious cause of stress in the elderly. Today doctors will prescribe medications to address that pain which might be of concern to you. Don’t refuse to permit your loved one to have pain reducing medication because of concerns you may have. Speak to their doctor and listen with an open mind. Weighing to pros and cons of pain verses medication is not to be taken lightly. My personal choice is always to use prescribed medication to end pain in the elderly. You know how hard it is for you to function when you are in pain. It is just as hard for them. Unaddressed pain in the elderly can lead to confusion and possibly dementia. Be pro active with your loved ones doctors to make sure they address the pain they report.