Autumnaged Care

Understanding the stress of moving a family member into aged care and how to cope.

Autumnaged Care

Understanding the stress of moving a family member into aged care and how to cope.

Moving a loved one into residential aged care can be a challenging time for families. Coping with how your loved one is feeling and your own emotions can lead to significant stress and pressure. Many of us have an understanding that stress happens when we’re in difficult situations and that it affects how we do life. While some situations, like transitioning a loved one into aged care can’t be prevented, experts have been looking at stress and how to deal with it well.

What Is Stress?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines stress as “a reaction to a situation where a person feels threatened or anxious” and they say the symptoms “may be physical or emotional”. What makes stress particularly difficult is that anything that we may perceive as a problem to us can cause stress. Stress can occur strongly when we feel there is a problem but we feel that we won’t be able to deal with it and/or don’t have the resources to cope.

Is Stress Normal?

Experts Cherie Butts and Estner Sternberg have spent years looking into stress and its effects on the body. To a degree, when our bodies feel stress they believe it to be a natural occurrence, with our body adapting to a new situation. It is when stress is felt chronically and intensely that it can be harmful to our health, resulting in psychological and biological changes. These changes are what intensify the likelihood of becoming ill.

What Happens When We Are Stressed?

When we are faced with stress our bodies are responding in a “fight or flight reaction”. Cortisol is released in our system which diverts energy to muscles that are needed to avoid danger. While this can be helpful in the short term, i.e, making us run faster, another action of cortisol is to suppress the immune system. The National Center For Health Research says that “chronic stress causes wounds to heal more slowly than normal and leaves the body more prone to infections.”

How Do Men And Women Cope With Stress?

Dr Pilar Matud has studied the different ways men and women deal with stress. She has found that social support systems are vital in coping with stress. Her research found that the tendency to create, nurture and benefit from these social support systems, is more common in women. She found that the social support systems allowed women to copy more effectively with stress, “enhancing their immune response and resistance to diseases.”

Tips To Reduce Stress

It is important to note that experts who have looked into stress and stress management say that different approaches will work for different people. Give yourself the time to figure out the right mix of strategies to help you manage your stress.

The National Center For Health Research encourages pursuing the following stress strategies.

  1. Exercise
    1. Exercising regularly can help your body deal with stress. Physical exercise causes your body to release endorphins “which make you feel better and boost your immune system.”
  2. Breathing Deeply
    1. Many psychologists teach breathing exercises to help clients to be relaxed. Deep and slow breathing tells the body to slow down and has a calming effect that experts say can lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension and decrease heart rates.
  3. Maintaining A Healthy Diet
    1. Eating healthy food and avoiding processed can help build up the bodies immune system. Fresh fruits, legumes, seeds, vegetables, raw nuts and whole grains can assist the body to better deal with stress. Lowering one’s caffeine intake can also help.
  4. Getting Good Sleep
    1. Studies have found that adults function better on 8-9 hours of sleep. Getting consistent amounts of sleep and keeping a consistent sleeping schedule can help balance the body to better tackle difficult times.
  5. Gathering Social Support
    1. Research has indicated that expressing what you are feeling can affect your health. Reaching out to friends and family may be difficult but experts say it is incredibly important. Having your emotions validated and to know you are supported can significantly help to reduce stress. Having chats to others whether they are friends, family or a professional can be a helpful way to manage stress.
  6. Seeking Professional Help
    1. Sometimes it is best to talk to a professional. Everyone at times can feel that they are overwhelmed, seeing someone who has the training to help you in your time of need is seen by the medical community as a very helpful and normal approach.
  7. An Honest Look At Your Stress Triggers
    1. Sit down with yourself and deeply consider the particular points of the situation that are making you feel stressed. Ask friends and family for advice on how to approach it well and as much as you can seek to address those elements with help and support.
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