Posted on Apr 20, 2020 in Senior Mental Health
In these uncertain times, we need to remind ourselves to help reduce anxiety in seniors.
Sadly, our senior loved ones are more likely to suffer from anxiety. By the time they have reached old age, seniors have experienced the loss of loved ones, the loss of mobility, and often even the loss of sight and hearing.
Many seniors who suffer from pre-existing mental health issues such as Alzheimer’s, generalized anxiety disorder, or bipolar are particularly prone to anxiety.
It’s normal and healthy to experience anxiety from time to time. That said, excessive anxiety can be distressing and frightening.
Exacerbated anxiety in seniors can trigger disruptive behaviors so it’s vital to learn how to de-escalate anxious episodes and help to return them to a more relaxed and contented state.
According to Mental Health America, the most common types of anxiety that seniors experience include:
Anxiety comes in different forms and each type can be treated slightly differently. Some anxiety disorders can be treated with a certain medication while other types respond to relaxation exercises and tender loving care.
We’ll now look at how to reduce anxiety in your senior loved one and how to help steer their mindset into a more positive state.
Panic disorder is characterized by the onset of sudden panic attacks. Panic attacks are episodes of terror and can happen out of nowhere. Physical symptoms of panic attacks can manifest as shortness of breath, dizzy spells, heart palpitations, and chest pains. A person suffering a panic attack might feel terrified and think they are going to die.
Panic attacks are irrational and illogical, but the person experiencing them is scared senseless. Panic attacks are rooted in emotional trauma. The loss of a close loved one can negatively impact a senior person’s anxiety levels. The loss can be so dramatic that it even affects them physiologically.
To help reduce panic attacks in seniors, it’s vital to check that they are eating healthy and nutritious meals. Seniors depend on vital nutrients to help balance their emotions. Vitamins and minerals help to maintain equilibrium in the central nervous system.
Encouraging seniors to exercise can also help to reduce anxiety. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals and promote blood flow to the brain.
Medication is often prescribed to seniors suffering from panic attacks. Doctors are likely to prescribe antidepressants, benzodiazepines, or beta-blockers.
Therapy is often helpful to reduce panic attacks in seniors. A trained psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor can use types of psychotherapy to establish the root causes of panic.
Types of psychotherapy used to treat panic disorders include:
Family contact is essential to help seniors to maintain a positive mind frame. Regular contact gives seniors something to look forward to, particularly if they have grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Interacting with younger people gives seniors hope and can dramatically lift their mood.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a personality disorder characterized by continual anxious thoughts and routines that serve as a coping mechanism to control these thoughts.
People with OCD can find that heightened anxiety levels exacerbate their behaviors and routines. For example, if they are obsessed with germs and cleanliness, they may repeatedly wash their hands until they become dry and start bleeding.
OCD is a long-term mental health condition although it can develop later in life as a symptom of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Behaviors and routines associated with OCD can become so severe that they interfere with daily life and the people around the person suffering.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used in conjunction with antidepressants to treat OCD. Sadly, though, this is only effective in the early stages of dementia. As your loved one’s mental health and cognitive decline, it’s tougher to manage OCD symptoms with therapy.
Medications such as benzodiazepines can be used to calm someone with OCD. They can also be calmed down using behavioral management techniques like distraction or validation. It’s important to lend a compassionate ear and try to calm your loved one by suggesting relaxing activities or simply having a conversation to take their mind off things.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that causes high anxiety triggered after a stressful life event.
PTSD symptoms can be caused by traumatic events such as going to war, disasters, or physical/mental trauma. Existing PTSD symptoms can worsen with old age.
Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks to the distressing event, nightmares, and racing thoughts about the event.
PTSD is often treated with SSRI antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. Various types of cognitive behavioral therapy are also used to help people suffering from PTSD. Exposure therapy and eye movement desensitization/reprocessing therapy are two very effective therapies for PTSD.
If your senior loved one is suffering from heightened anxiety, it’s important to keep in constant contact and reassure them that they are there for you. Encourage lots of phone calls and teleconferencing calls with their friends and loved ones.
And also, don’t forget to make sure they’re eating properly as this can really help to reduce anxiety in seniors.
If you need any assistance right now, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team here at Landmark Senior Living. We’ll help out in any way we can.