Picture this: two senior adults are sitting side by side. They’re the same gender, about the same age, and in similar health. One appears sad, downcast, even gloomy – the other is cranky, angry and chronically irritated. Which one would you guess is at greater risk of developing serious health problems?
Anger Management: Anger Causes More Bodily Damage
Most of us might guess that the “sad senior” has the greater risk, since we have learned to associate “sadness” with depression. But a new study described in this HealthDay article suggests that our stereotype is incorrect. It’s true, the article says, that seniors can experience times of profound sadness, especially when a spouse, sibling or friend passes away. “The loss of loved ones can hit the elderly particularly hard,” says HealthDay, “but a new study suggests it’s anger, and not sadness, that may damage the aging body more.”
We can easily imagine why people can become sad as they age. Apart from the loss of loved ones, many seniors find themselves isolated from family. As we get older, we can no longer drive, so there goes our cherished mobility and sense of independence. Physical ailments that we shook off in younger days may become sources of chronic pain, and new maladies that accompany aging can develop over time. But why might a senior become angry? We found this helpful piece on a website called SeniorCaring, published a few years ago, that provided some good answers to that question. Knowing why seniors develop anger problems can help loved ones deal with that anger and hopefully minimize the health risks.
Anger Management a Particular Challenge in Tense Situations
“It’s no secret as we get older, we can become a little more grumpy,” says SeniorCaring. “Seniors can become irritable, stubborn, and downright nasty sometimes. However, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between grumpiness and serious senior anger issues.” As the article states, we all have good and bad days, seniors included, but when especially tense situations arise, spouses and family members need to know how to handle them. “Aging can be a very humbling process, and it’s always good to have someone helping you deal with emotions.” The SeniorCaring article lists three major reasons why so many seniors slip easily into a chronically angry attitude:
- They’re frustrated. “As we age, we slowly begin to realize that our mind and body just aren’t what they used to be. Many seniors assume that letting others help them perform daily tasks is a sign of weakness or loss of dignity, so they will often become frustrated and argumentative.” (One source calls this “dependency resentment.”) Seniors also become frustrated and angry when they experience confusion, particularly if they’re in the beginning stages of cognitive decline.
- They’re not used to a new lifestyle. Adjusting to retirement is hard for many seniors, says SeniorCaring. They feel restless and resent being forced into a season of inactivity, one in which their regular workplace routine “has been replaced with idleness and uncertainty, which can cause major issues.” Anger can also arise in a senior who resents having to give up their home and move into an apartment or assisted living.
- They may be caught up in substance abuse. We were surprised to read that, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies, almost half of nursing home residents have a problem with alcohol. Irritability and anger can be early signs of substance abuse, so it’s important to address any drug or alcohol issues immediately. One website called the Addiction Center listed several potential triggers for drug or alcohol addiction among seniors, including retirement; the death of a family member, spouse, pet or close friend; loss of income or financial strains; relocation or placement in a nursing home; trouble sleeping; family conflict; and mental or physical health decline. If a senior loved one starts displaying anger, it could be a warning sign.
Anger Management: Anger Triggers Damaging Inflammation
In the HealthDay article cited earlier, we read that anger among seniors is much more than a mere irritant: anger can trigger a whole host of serious health problems. Researchers in Montreal surveyed 226 seniors to gauge their levels of anger or sadness. They also took blood samples to look for signs of inflammation, which is increased by anger and has been linked with conditions such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Scientists found no correlation between subjects who were experiencing sadness and those with higher levels of inflammation – but among older patients living with anger, inflammation and chronic illness were noticeably more common. Other studies have linked anger to insomnia, digestive problems, high blood pressure, even stroke. Clearly the problem of persistent anger in a senior loved one should not be ignored, especially among those 80 and older. “Younger seniors may be able to use that anger as fuel to overcome life’s challenges and emerging age-related losses, and that can keep them healthier,” said the study author. “Anger becomes problematic for adults once they reach 80 years old, however, because that is when many experience irreversible losses and some of life’s pleasures fall out of reach.”
Anger Management Starts With Better Health and a Solid Plan
Planning for your health needs in retirement is a critical need. We at AgingOptions generally advise that aging men and women are better served by entrusting their health care to a geriatrician, not merely a family practice doctor. The difference is significant, because a geriatrician is thoroughly trained in the unique health care needs of older adults. These professionals will take the time to listen and to evaluate carefully, and you’ll feel like an individual, not a number. We urge you to say good-bye to medicine-by-the-numbers and instead to call AgingOptions this week: we’ll provide you with a list of geriatricians in your area.
If you’re getting serious about planning for your retirement future, we hope you’ll accept the invitation from Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions to join him soon at a free event called a LifePlanning Seminar. Rajiv will show you an exciting model for comprehensive retirement planning in which health care, financial security, legal protection, housing choices and family communication are all woven together into one powerful and seamless blueprint. Come discover how to build the retirement of your dreams! You’ll find a calendar of upcoming seminars on our Live Events page – then simply register for the date and time that works for you.
The key to a secure retirement is proper retirement planning, and it’s available to you today from the professionals at AgingOptions. Age on!
(originally reported at https://consumer.healthday.com)