Stress and your Health

Retirement is supposed to be the time when you relax and play golf, a time when you are older and wiser and now have the answers to many of life’s questions. However, with aging comes new concerns, such as managing your health, how to fund retirement, and a general sense of “loss.” As we age, coping with stress isn’t as easy anymore. “We tend to have less resilience to stress, and older adults often find that stress affects them differently now. Stress management has been associated with increased senior health and well-being. Studies show that long-term stress can damage brain cells, leading to depression. Depression is one of the most dangerous effects of stress in older people. About 2 million Americans over age 65 suffer from depression. The first step to coping with stress is learning to recognize it. New challenges arise as you age and those challenges can be worrisome. Some common challenges that can lead to short-term and long-term stress in adults as they age. If you have suffered a loss, are struggling with an illness or disability, or are having trouble dealing with a major change in your life, know that symptoms of stress are normal and not a sign of weakness. But prolonged sadness, anxiety, loss of interest in life, and giving up activities you once enjoyed are not a normal part of getting older. They could be signs of depression. If you are struggling to deal with stress or depression, you need to ask for help from your doctor or another member of your medical team.
Some tips include the following:
Meditation is an ideal stress reliever for seniors in that it requires no special equipment or physical ability, can be practiced in a variety of settings, and provides excellent relief from stress.
Solving Sudoku or crossword puzzles, or working on other thinking games can provide mental stimulation akin to ‘brain exercise.’ Because these games require focused concentration, they can provide helpful distraction for those who tend to ruminate over stressors, plus the benefits of mental stimulation.
Get regular exercise. Exercise releases hormones that help you fight off stress and depression. Exercise can improve your sense of well-being.
Put things in perspective. Accept that there are some things you just can’t control—try to see the positive aspects of change. Solve whatever problems you can and let go of the rest. Also, don’t forget the value of humor.
Socializing often, too much time alone means too much time reflecting on the past or worrying about the future. Being around loved ones and interacting with people is a great way to relax, lift your mood and keep you connected to the present moment. The purposeful act of volunteering can make you feel valued and help put your own stressors into perspective.

As a caregiver , you have many items on your plate but one of the most important is that of planning which we never make time to do. We plan for emergency such as hurricanes etc but do you have a plan if something should happen to you? Who would take care of the person you are caring for, ie spouse, parent or other loved one. We do not want to think about what can happen to us as caregiver, but we need to. Caregiver are least likely to take time to ensure that they are current on their shots (flu), medication, that they see a doctor when they are sick, or take time for themselves to de-stress, etc and studies have shown that the loved one can out live the caregiver due to these items. Due to this issues and other that are out of your control, you need to ensure that you have a plan of action on who will be taking care of your loved one. We are taking about items such as you running to the store and having a car accident and having to be taken to the hospital, falling and getting hurt, anything that would stop you from caring for your loved one. Is there anything on your ICE (in case of Emergency) on your phone that shows your emergency information and that your are a caregiver and who to call so they can come an take care of your loved one. If you are not using ICE on your phone or another program like that, do you have anything in your purse or wallet showing your medication and information and who to call to take care of your loved one. We know that you have your loved ones information with you at all times just in case, but do you have yours? The person who they need to call, how soon can they get to your place, do they have keys, do they have paperwork so they can take your loved ones to the doctor if need, etc. Can you loved one be left alone for that length of time, etc. You need to have some sort of plan to cover items such as who is able to come imminently (most times within hours or how ever long your love one can be left alone) to take care of your loved ones, are they current with your loved one condition and how to take care of them. If they haven’t seen them in a while and your love one wouldn’t know them due to changes in their condition (ALZ/remember gotten worse) are they going to be able to take care of them, are they going be able to get in to your place, how long are they going to be able to stay there, If they can only take off for a few days do you have another person to them come in? How are they to be called? Do you have information on this with the 911 system, on your phone or on your person? Do you have a health care surrogate for your self and an alternate other than you for your love one? These are thing no one what to think about but you as a caregiver need to have in place and need to make sure that everyone including your love one (if possible) involve knows about and keep it current. This will give you a little peace of mind and hopefully it will never needs to be put in place.

Holiday Issues

During the Holiday season things can get a little stressful when family comes and visits or when you visit family. Here are a few tips to help with the stress for you, your caregiver (if you have one) and family.

1. First try to keep to your schedule, tell them before hand that you need to eat at certain times but also tell them why, like you have to take your medications a hour after you eat or with a meal and you need to do it at a set time or that you get up early or you don’t get to bed till late,due to not being able to sleep so that they can plan things either in the morning or evening which ever works best. Learn the word “NO” and use it. You can’t do everything
2. Be honest to everyone about your health issues, if you are having to turn up the TV to hear it, getting up a few times in the middle of the night, you can’t see small print, you might be forgetting items, your are “stumbling a lot but not really falling”etc tell your doctor, if you have a caregiver tell them and tell your family. Do not assume the worst, it could be a simple issues that can be corrected.
3. Since you will be around family this time of year or sending cards to family, made a list of your family health issues that you know of. This can be quite helpful since a lot of health issues/disease are hereditary and they can take action to change their lifestyle to help hold off taking medication for the health issue.
4. Also now is a good time to tell everyone what your wishes are. It may sound like a bad time since it the holidays, but it isn’t. You need to make everyone know what you want and you might need to tell them a few times over the course of the year so that they know and can prepare.
5. Try to understand that they might be concerned for you if they only see you a few times a year. You need to talk to them about any issues and how you are planning on address them and take their suggestions in and think on them. We know that giving up any independence is very hard and you don’t want to “be a bother” but if they are offering, it might not be a bother to them. Let them help with some of big and heavy items that you have been putting off most of the year.
6. For the daily caregiver, let them help and you can have them see what some of the issues are, you might have been telling them about but they haven’t listen.

Most of all this should be a enjoyable time of the year, so sit back and let others help or if you don’t have any family, make a new holiday memory by volunteering someplace. Everyone can use extra help during this time of year. You know what you can do so ask your church, your neighbors, your friends if they could use some help doing what you can.