Can Stress Worsen Alzheimer’s-Related Behavior?

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It doesn’t matter whether a senior has Alzheimer’s or a broken arm, heightened stress levels don’t speed up the healing process. When it comes to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, stress may exacerbate the symptoms of the condition. Here are a few things you need to know about stress and its impact on Alzheimer’s-related behaviors. 

The Physical Impact of Stress

When stress levels are high, the body responds by producing corticosteroids, or stress hormones. Excessive levels of stress hormones can cause multiple health issues. Stress hormones are controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is affected by the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Because the mechanisms that control both stress and cognitive degeneration overlap, stress and Alzheimer’s disease can become a feedback loop. 

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of homecare families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

The Cycle of Stress & Alzheimer’s

When they’re sick or injured, many seniors respond by feeling stressed or anxious. Not all diseases affect the physiological mechanisms that govern stress response. However, Alzheimer’s disrupts the endocrine and neural circuits that allow the body to minimize stress levels. Because these circuits aren’t able to function properly, the natural stress caused by Alzheimer’s disease is exacerbated because the condition attacks the mechanisms that traditionally step in when stress gets out of hand. High stress levels can lead to increased anxiety, insomnia, and depression. 

Stress & Cognitive Decline

Several studies have been conducted on the relationship between stress and cognitive decline. Most of these studies show stress can increase the production of amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques are among the pathological signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive impairment. Studies suggest most types of stress, ranging from mild social stress to chronic stress, can lead to an increase in the amyloid plaque burden. 

Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Opelika Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

Stress Treatment Options 

Given the connection between stress and Alzheimer’s disease, stress reduction should be a goal of any Alzheimer’s treatment plan. Some seniors with Alzheimer’s find prescription treatments like antidepressant medications to be effective. 

Caregivers may also have success with alternative modes of therapy. For example, music therapy can provide effective stress relief for seniors with Alzheimer’s. Studies suggest music can soothe the nerves, boost overall mood, and slow the progression of cognitive decline. Family caregivers should play music their loved ones are familiar with, as it can evoke memories and positive feelings. 

Therapeutic touch is also a great way to minimize stress. A family caregiver can try holding his or her loved one’s hand or giving it a gentle massage when the senior seems anxious or distressed. A simple comforting touch can have a big impact on anxiety and the accompanying symptoms. 

Alzheimer’s can be challenging for seniors to manage without assistance, and it can be just as challenging for families who don’t have experience in providing Alzheimer’s care. Opelika Home Care Assistance provides Alzheimer’s care seniors and their families can depend on. Our proprietary Cognitive Therapeutics Method was designed to help seniors with Alzheimer’s and other memory-related conditions live happier and healthier lives. To learn more about our reliable, compassionate in-home care services, contact us at (334) 744-7100 today.


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