Stress is often part of everyday life. However, it can be life-threatening if it continues for a long time. Older adults, in particular, are vulnerable to stress due to a disability, a recent loss of spouse or children, acquiring a chronic illness, or relocating to a new home or facility. Furthermore, as people age, physiological functions deteriorate, thus exacerbating the stress level of older people (Waern et. Al 2003). At the same time, the occurrence of suicide and depression among the older adult population is largely attributed to stress (Lee et al. 2004). Among older adults, stress is largely caused by loss or fear of a loss. It may be loss of control over their life, loss of a family member or close friend, loss of bodily functions, loss of independence, loss of memory and deterioration of thinking processes, as well as loss of purpose in life or feeling useless.
When under stress, the older adult may display the following:
- Mental confusion
- Easy fatigability
- Withdrawal and Distancing from family and friends
- Changes in personality
- Physiologic symptoms such as pain, nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia
According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984), coping strategies utilized during stressful events is a very important factor. Meanwhile, stress can be reduced by identifying the causative factor or agent of stress, as well as by learning new knowledge and practices that would aid in overcoming stress. The presence of nursing staff has been found to be an essential aspect of the provision of care. The therapeutic relationship between nurse and patient promotes healing and recovery as interventions are applied, which are based on sound professional knowledge and judgment and good nursing skills. (Jo 1999).
Some nursing interventions that could be applicable in Sam’s case include:
- Encouraging verbalization of feelings
- Talking about emotions and feelings would allow Sam to get it out in the open and would allow him to recognize that he has indeed a problem that needs to be dealt with.
- Eat proper foods
- Teach relaxation techniques
- Relaxation techniques are a good way to de-stress and clear up the mind. Some examples of relaxation techniques include: deep breathing, reading , yoga, or listening to music.
- Aid in contacting family and friends
- Encourage socialization
- Encourage an active lifestyle such as walking and daily exercise.
- Facilitate independence as tolerated
Stress, simply put, can cause various problems. It may manifest though physiological signs and symptoms and may also cause emotional disturbances. Managing and coping with stress is a must but it will require change. It must be understood that coping with stress requires changing the situation or changing one’s reaction or response to the stressor. However, if stress gets out of control, this may lead to more serious problems such as depression and suicide. At this point, professional help must be sought out; either from a doctor or a mental health specialist as they are better equipped to deal with issues such as these.
Jo, K. 1999. The effect of nurse presence on depression, stress and quality of life of hemodialysis patient. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Catholic University: Seoul, South Korea.
Lazarus, R. and Folkman, S. 1984. Stress, appraisal and coping, Springer Publishing Co: New York, USA.
Lee, P., Lee, Y., Lim, J., Hwang, R. a]nd Park, E. 2004. The relationship of stress, social support and depression in the elderly. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 34(3):477‑484.
Waern, M., Rubenowitz, E. and Wilhelmson, K. 2003. Predictors of suicide in the elderly. Gerontology, 49(5):328.334.