In the quest to get the best medical care, well-meaning family members and friends sometimes overlook the importance of seniors’ mental health. Lots of things can trigger anxiety during the course of an average day. When anxiety in elderly people is happening on a regular basis or they’re overly emotional for many days in a row, something more serious could be going on.
The risks associated with COVID-19 have increased anxiety the world over. These are particularly stressful times for seniors who are already experiencing isolation and loneliness. With stronger restrictions in place on visiting, many older adults need help discovering ways to cope with anxiety.
Causes of Increased Anxiety in Elderly Populations
Anxiety is a normal response to stress, and it can be triggered by a variety of issues.
Let’s look at some reasons why anxiety in seniors often goes undetected:
- Seniors don’t recognize the symptoms.
- Seniors don’t want to burden anyone.
- May be masked by other issues like physical or emotional pain.
- May be viewed as a side effect of medications.
Seniors that haven’t dealt with the diagnosis of anxiety in the past may encounter new stressors they haven’t had in the past. They need help to learn how to deal with anxiety.
Here’s a list of some of the things that create anxiety in older adults:
- Feelings of isolation
- Greater health risks
- Lack of access to medical care
- Reports of increased deaths due to COVID-19
- Guilt due to their lack of independence
While anxiety is a normal emotion, it’s important to address it and learn how to help people with anxiety.
How to Learn if Seniors Need Support
Over the course of their lifetimes, older adults have lived through many traumatic experiences—wars, depressions, and other trying times. In the past, societal norms encouraged people to be tough and hold things in. In today’s society, it’s more acceptable to communicate your feelings with people you trust. In general, this is a new concept for seniors. They may need a little encouragement and coaxing to open up about their struggles with anxiety.
While seniors may not be forthcoming with how they’re feeling, you can find out more about their anxiety levels by asking them questions about their daily functioning like these:
- Have you been sleeping well?
- Have you been eating all your meals?
- Are you happy most days?
- Is anything unusual causing you stress?
- Did you worry about anything in particular today?
Be sure to take a compassionate approach and offer lots of emotional support.
How to Help Seniors Cope Social Isolation with Stress
If you suspect that a senior is coping with stress, anxiety, and isolation, there are specific ways that you can help them learn how to reduce anxiety.
Here’s a list of things you can do to help seniors reduce stress and anxiety that’s due to the pandemic or other reasons:
- Be an active listener. Actively listen to their concerns and take them seriously. Let them know that you’re open to hearing about stress and anxiety, and you’re committed to helping them learn how to reduce anxiety.
- Help them maintain a routine. Work with them to help them set up a daily routine. When they know what to expect every day, it can be a significant stress reliever.
- Be accepting of their feelings and fears. Take their mental and emotional health seriously. Help them to communicate their fears and give them lots of reassurance that these feelings are normal and you’re willing to help them in any way you can. Do your best to help them recognize that being willing to receive help is a sign of strength.
- Assist them in calming activities like meditation, deep breathing, or journaling. Encourage them to incorporate calming activities into their daily routine and help them find the resources to support them to follow through.
- Find ways to keep them healthy and active. Help them find a way to get some regular physical exercise. There are lots of options for exercise including taking fitness classes at a senior center, going on walks, or taking a chair yoga or senior aerobics class onsite or online.
- Share factual information with them from reliable sources. Direct them toward reliable news sources and discourage them from visiting websites with non-factual or misguided information about the pandemic and other senior health issues.
If your loved one is dealing with excessive worry or fear, isn’t sleeping well, and is further isolating themselves because of it, help is available. Anxiety is treatable. Work with your loved one’s physician to share information about the symptoms of anxiety and what treatment options are available.
One of the many services that At Home Care Services offers is companionship care. Getting some extra help could be the key to getting your loved one’s anxiety under control. Call us today for a quote.