Many of us working age adults persist in a kind of utopian ideal that old age and retirement will bring enjoyable, relaxing times and reduced levels of stress. After all, we spend most of our adult lives taking care of other people and carrying out duties to do with work and family to the point of no return in some cases. It makes sense that we look towards retirement as a peaceful time to enjoy the fruits of our labours.Sadly, that doesn't always become the case. As we get older, our families and spouses also age, and this brings new challenges for which we don't always feel equipped.
Be more aware of stress in older men and women
Some American studies on stress in older people shows that caregivers - particularly those who look after a relative or spouse with a form of dementia - can often become very stressed, and it is thought this can lead to a shorter life expectancy, which doesn't seem fair at all.
Reducing the stress of caregivers and older parents is therefore a real priority for younger family members, but it isn't always as simple as taking over some of the responsibility. Many of us live very full lives, and may live away from our parents, or may just not have as much time as we'd like. There are, however, at least a couple of solutions that could help you make it easier on your older relatives, particularly if it is your father looking after your mother, or a similar set up.
Traditionally, men are not usually placed into caregiving roles unless they are very close to the person who needs care, and if there is no-one else suitable in the family to deliver this. That means older male caregivers may be more prone to becoming stressed, particularly if their wife has some form of dementia such as Alzheimer's.
It can be very hard for a man who has had much of his domestic situation organised for him by his wife, to then take on the responsibility of organising everything himself, and this type of thing can lead to increased levels of stress hormone.
How to help reduce stress levels in older caregivers
There are a few different ways we can recommend to you for the purpose of helping your older caregiving relative to reduce their stress. Some are based in common sense, and some in the services that are made available to people who care for others. As a home care provider, we are not going to suggest you place a relative in a care home. However, this is sometimes the only solution if life has become truly unmanageable for your older relatives delivering care. Before you get to that stage, we would recommend checking out the list below and using as many of the facilities and services that are available in your area.
Spend more time with your loved ones
Parents of any age love to see their families, and spending more quality time with your parents or other older relatives, especially if you have a young family, is a great way to help them let go of their stress. Eating cake, drinking tea and enjoying good company is a great way to wind down, no matter what age or occupation someone has, so do it more!
Do more fun stuff
All the things that help us combat stress in our youth can help older people do the same. This means that something just as simple as an impromptu sing-a-long, or a hug from a loved person, can help to relax and comfort a person. This comfort reduces the levels of stress hormone, and replaces it with more relaxing chemicals, so it's important that whatever your parent or other older caregiver used to do for relaxation is still given time now.
Use the facilities on offer
Some areas have more facilities for older people, and for those with dementia, than others, but most people should be able to access a day care centre or similar. Many people with an on-going diagnosis of dementia may still get a great deal of pleasure out of socialising with others, and their main caregiver can take some time out while this is happening, to relax or do something just for them.
Take respite where possible
Respite services are provided usually by private companies or charities, and tend to take the form of residential short-term accommodation. They are often care homes that specialise in a particular condition such as dementia, and will provide all the necessary facilities and care that the unwell person needs. Respite visits are often for just a long weekend or a week here and there, but they're really important to allow the person's main caregiver to have some 'respite' from their responsibilities. It gives them a chance to recharge their batteries, do some things with the family that they couldn't otherwise do, and even take a holiday.
Respite places can often be booked up for months, so it's a good idea to book these well in advance, in anticipation of needing a rest. You or your relative can ask their social worker for information about respite services in your area, or you should be able to find this online too. Get help through home care services Home care is our thing, and we believe wholeheartedly in its importance for older people.
If one of your parents is becoming very stressed from looking after their spouse full time, but none of you want your relative to live in a residential care home, we have a halfway solution. Contracting home care, whether privately or through a reputable company, works for many people, especially for those to whom independence is very important, and we can (of course) heartily recommend it. When you have an elderly relative who cares for another, it's really important they are supported adequately, so they can keep on doing what they do so well. That's why, in Men's Health Week 2016, we really want to help you and your loved ones find solutions for stress that will help. Let us know what you're doing for Men's Health Week 2016, by tweeting us at @SahanCares and help us spread ideas for reducing stress in older men.