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Stress and everyday annoyances are not crises. Situations that interfere with normal activity, inspire feelings of panic or defeat, and bring about deep emotional reactions are crises. A crisis is a 'turning point'; or a crucial time that will make a difference for better or worse. The Chinese word for 'crisis'; is made up of two characters -- one means despair and the other means opportunity. When a person experiences crisis, there will either be a negative outcome or a positive one. The direction of the outcome depends on a number of factors such as -- physical and emotional health of the individual, support from others, childhood upbringing, past experience with similar situations, and the duration of the crisis situation. I propose to focus specifically on the life crises with which the elderly population faces, notably the loss of a spouse or companion, retirement, and contending with a terminal illness. Through examining the latter crises and their potential to influence the health of an elderly individual, I expect to learn of means by which the elderly may give way to in order not to become overwhelmed with the changes.
Different life crises have different impacts. In many cases, however, it may be possible to anticipate crises and prepare for them. It may also be useful to recognize the impact of crises that have occurred so that one can take account of them appropriately. Holmes and Rahe with the Social Readjustment Scale have done some very interesting work in this area. This allocates a number of 'Life Crisis Units'; to different events, so that one can evaluate them and take action accordingly (Niven 99). While this approach is obviously a simplification of complex situations, using LCUs can give one a useful start in adjusting to life crises. With regards to the elderly population, namely the events 'death of a spouse';, 'personal illness or injury';, and 'retirement'; rate 100, 53, and 45 LCUs respectively. One of the most powerful stressors in one's life, particularly in the elderly population, is the loss of a loved one or a close relationship through the death of a spouse or companion. In the two years following bereavement, widowed people are more susceptible to illness and physical ailments, and their mortality rate is higher than expected. Bereaved people may be vulnerable to illness in part because, feeling unhappy, they do not sleep well, they stop eating properly, and they consume more drugs and cigarettes.
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