Anxiety in Seniors

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Anxiety can be confusing for those who suffer from it and those who have a senior loved one who battles with it. When it comes to trying to understand what goes on inside the head of a senior who suffers with anxiety, it can be a challenge for family and caregivers. Anxiety is often misunderstood. Anxiety is treatable and common in senior adults. It is easier to reverse the symptoms of anxiety dependent on how early it is identified and addressed.

Anxiety in senior adults can be linked to important risk factors. Anxiety doesn’t always have to have a trigger. Anxiety can be caused by certain environmental and situational factors. These can include:

  • Grief and loss
  • Excessive worrying over physical symptoms
  • Physical limitations in activities
  • Dementia
  • Stressful life events
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Disturbances in sleep
  • Overall feelings of poor physical health
  • Abuse of medicine or alcohol
  • Immobility or isolation

There are many types of symptoms for anxiety disorders. These symptoms should not be left ignored or written off as a normal part of aging. All of these symptoms do not need to be occurring for a senior to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, if they are exhibiting many of these behaviors, talk with their doctor to work on a solution. These symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Eye and vision problems
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Difficult eating
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Digestion problems
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Change in weight or appearance
  • Withdrawal or isolating behavior
  • Panic
  • Abuse of substances

Your actions can either help your senior loved ones with their anxiety or it can contribute to it. Here are some tips for helping a senior cope with their anxiety:

  1. Stay active and healthy – Exercise has many positive benefits on the physical and mental health of seniors. Regular exercise or any type of physician approved physical activity will help with anxiety.
  2. Accept the feelings and fears of seniors – It is easy to tell someone that everything will be okay. It is another thing to actively listen and encourage your loved one to express their true emotions. It is especially important for your loved one to know that it a good thing to ask for help. Find ways to be a support to them without taking over. It is important to treat them with respect and give them the right to make decisions.
  3. Have a morning routine – Help them arrange their morning routine to one that is intended to reduce levels of stress. When feelings of anxiousness are decreased in the morning, chances are they will be lower throughout the day. Help them find ways to meditate and have relaxed breathing to start their day off on the right foot.
  4. Be a good listener – Work on your communication strategies in order to open doors for them to feel like they can communicate honesty and feelings with you about their anxiety in order to get help. Often people who suffer with anxiety just need someone who is willing to listen and let them talk through their various emotions and fears. Your support can have a significant impact on them.
  5. Be calm – You can help your senior loved one by helping to keep things more calm when you are around them. By keeping calm and peaceful, you can make a difference in their day.

If you or your loved one is experiencing symptoms of anxiety for more than six months, talk with doctors about the symptoms, treatment options and the availability for mental health specialists in the area. If it appears that professional assistance is needed for their anxiety, help them research to choose the best option and keep them encouraged throughout the process.

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