As people age, they may require extra help to complete their day-to-day activities. As their health and energy levels decline, in some cases, seniors become dependent on abusive or neglectful caregivers or even family members, who take advantage of their frail state. Verbal, financial or even physical abuse becomes a daily routine, which causes insurmountable trauma and adds a great amount of stress and anxiety to a senior’s life.
In the US, over half a million elderly abuse reports reach authorities on a yearly basis, which meaning that hundreds of thousands of those elderly people are senior survivors of abuse. However, even though some of these seniors are no longer victims of abuse, the effects of trauma they’ve experienced linger on for a considerable period, and most commonly include symptoms of high stress levels and anxiety.
The Negative Effects of Stress and Anxiety in Seniors Brought on by Abuse
Reports from the American Institute of Stress indicate that 75 – 90 percent of doctor’s visits are associated with stress, which is why doctors strive towards encouraging senior patients to significantly reduce their daily stressors and improve their overall lifestyle. However, instead of enjoying their golden years, many seniors find themselves unable to eat or sleep due to anxiety and stress, which remain months or even years after the abuse. Furthermore, both anxiety and stress can cause physical issues in seniors, along with psychological symptoms that further steal their joy for life. Some of these physical and psychological conditions include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and loss of appetite.
- Inability to fall asleep (i.e. insomnia) due to troubling thoughts or physical pain brought on by stress.
- Migraines and decreased long-term memory.
- Lowered immune system.
The Effects of Anxiety and Stress on Seniors’ Mental Health
Mental health refers to one’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. In seniors, it is particularly important to recognize any signs of mental instability triggered by abuse, as it can lead to various scenarios such as depression, violent behavior, ignorance, inability to perform daily tasks, etc. Depression and anxiety are the most common psychological symptoms that result from any type of abuse, and can cause seniors to experience the following:
- They do not belong in a community.
- They become numb to the outside world.
- They might feel that drugs and alcohol are the only escape.
- They become forgetful.
- They operate out of fear and worry.
- They may entertain the thought of hurting themselves and others.
How to Eliminate Anxiety and Stress?
Letting anxiety and stress take over is not a good plan. In order for seniors to enjoy their golden years, they have to fight for joy and leave past hurts behind. Unfortunately, physical and psychological symptoms brought on by abuse are not as easy to eliminate, thus attending counseling sessions and engaging in pleasant, relaxing activities are both a must for seniors who have undergone trauma.
Even though letting go of bad memories, stress, and anxiety is easier said than done, it can be accomplished. It is a battle that even seniors can win with the help of their counselors and community.