September 30, 2020

‘What can I do to help my senior loved one relax and unwind?” 

This is a question that family caregivers here in Chicago and around the country find themselves asking on a regular basis. These are stressful times — and older adults often feel that stress very acutely. On top of chronic stress, millions of older adults suffer the effects of social isolation and loneliness, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Helping seniors to relax is even more difficult right now, with all of the uncertainty and confusion around COVID-19. 

Over time, chronic stress can lead to a whole host of negative effects — from trouble speaking and communicating, to mood swings, to physical illness and discomfort. 

Looking to help the older adult in your life relax? It helps to go in with a plan. Here are 10 easy relaxation and stress management methods to try with your senior loved one: 

1.) Meditation and Breathing Exercises

Mindfulness meditation is a powerful stress management tool. As the University of Michigan explains, this form of meditation is all about focusing on the present moment. It can help with relaxation “because you are not worrying about what happened before or what may occur in the future.” You can find a great guide to getting started with mindfulness meditation here. In addition to regular meditation, there are all sorts of breathing exercises that can help bring calm in a difficult moment. You can find some useful examples to try for stress and anxiety relief here, courtesy of Healthline

2.) Calming, Low-Impact Physical Activity

The connection between our minds and our bodies is incredibly strong — and physical activity has often been shown to help with stress management and relaxation. There are all sorts of relaxing activities that are also low-impact enough for seniors, including yoga, tai chi, walking, light resistance training, and chair stretches. Tai chi, for example, has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Yoga has been used for decades as a way to help lessen feelings of stress and anxiety. Walking has been linked to a more positive attitude and outlook, while people who commit to light strength training experience higher energy levels and less overall stress.

3.) Use Calming Scents Around the Home

You’ve probably heard the old expression that you are what you eat. What about you are what you smell? Aromatherapy is an increasingly popular practice, rooted in the idea that inhaling certain fragrances and smells can have a positive effect, including feelings of deep relaxation. Help your senior loved one identify scents and smells that they find calming, and then look for creative ways to bring them safely into the home — such as essential oil diffusers, candles, or a simmer pot. 

4.) Spend Time In Nature

As we’ve discussed before, spending time in nature can be remarkably healing and restorative for older adults. You don’t just have to take our word for it! Many studies have shown that spending time in the Great Outdoors is directly linked to “significantly lower depression and perceived stress,” and “enhanced mental well-being.” There are lots of activities that can help your older loved one enjoy some time in nature, such as going for a walk, picking up birding, working in their garden, or having a picnic in the park. 

5.) Connect With Friends

Seniors who remain socially connected as they age experience better overall health and significantly higher rates of personal happiness and satisfaction than those who feel more isolated or lonely. To help your senior loved one enjoy some of the positive benefits of staying social, find ways to help them connect with their community. Consider bringing in a kind and friendly companion to play games, share meals, swap stories, and go on outings in their neighborhood. During COVID, you can also help your senior loved one stay in touch with friends and family across the country through video calls or handwritten letters. 

6.) Listen to Soothing Sounds

Listening to something soothing may be a quick and easy way to help manage feelings of stress and anxiety in a difficult moment. There are all sorts of calming audio sources out there, including audiobooks, podcasts, and apps. Many older adults find music to be incredibly relaxing and comforting. Meanwhile, people of all ages often turn to white noise machines and nature sounds to help them unwind and relax, especially when going to sleep. 

7.) Make Something: Art, Music, or Food

Art is a powerful way to foster connections with older adults — and it can also be incredibly relaxing and soothing, in its own right. If your loved one needs an outlet, look into hobbies that can help them focus, relax, and decompress, such as painting landscapes or portraits; knitting and crocheting; playing an instrument; or helping out in the kitchen. In particular, gentle activities that help you get into a rhythm (such as making a blanket, or rolling out a ball of dough) can be very centering and promote mindfulness. 

8.) Soak In the Tub

What could be better than a long, hot bath? Bathing can help relax and soothe tense muscles, and can provide some much-needed downtime. Looking to make bathing easier for your elderly loved ones? Be sure to check out our guide to making a bathroom more senior-friendly, and our resources on grooming, bathing, and hygiene. 

9.) Drink Something Warm and Comforting

A warm drink can help you feel better on a cold day — and help relax you when you’re feeling stressed. Encourage your senior loved ones to avoid overly caffeinated beverages and alcohol, and instead look into warm drinks that are soothing and healthy. Many varieties of tea help promote relaxation; you can find a great list of examples right here. Warm milk has long been considered a sleep-aid. You may also want to try whipping up your own delicious concoction using healthy ingredients like ginger or turmeric. You can find some helpful recipes and ideas for warm, nourishing drinks here. 

10.) Reach Out for Help

Keep in mind that home remedies and DIY tricks won’t always be enough to help. If your senior loved one is struggling with a health concern such as chronic pain, insomnia, or malnutrition, do not hesitate to consult with your doctor or an appropriate specialist. There are also many mental health professionals who specialize in working with the elderly. 

Looking to Improve Your Senior Loved One’s Quality of Life? We’re Here to Help

Looking for a senior companion to help ensure that the older adult in your life can remain independent and lead an active and enriched lifestyle? Ready to reach out for help for your family? That’s where we come in!

At Companions for Seniors, our trained and bonded companions are passionate about empowering the elderly to live more full and enriched lives. Our mission is to help Chicago-area seniors live with dignity in the comfort of their own homes, while connecting them with their community and helping to nurture meaningful relationships. 

Our companions are available on flexible schedules to spend quality time with the elderly adult in your life. Whether your loved one needs transportation services, a helping hand with everyday activities, or just a friendly face around the house, our caregivers can help give your senior loved one the personalized attention and support they need – while giving family caregivers like you a well-deserved chance to rest and recharge.

Curious about how to set up a personalized care plan for the aging adult in your life? Reach out online today, or give us a call at 866-910-9020 to get the conversation started!