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Compassionate Elderly Care: Helping Your Aging Parents Cope with Anxiety

Senior Care in Harvard, MA

Experiencing anxiety and worry is a normal part of being a person. It is these feelings of worry that help us to evaluate our situation and determine the best course of action to create a desirable future or avoid undesirable events from occurring. ¹ When this worry takes over your life, however, it can become a serious problem. For many elderly adults, normal levels of anxiety and worry in their younger adult years may escalate in their senior years to become disruptive. Older adults may experience higher levels of anxiety because they are exposed to more external pressures, including pain and illness, depression, loss, and cognitive challenges.

Understanding the anxiety your aging parents may experience can allow you to develop elderly care approaches that guide them through developing coping skills and finding other ways to manage their worry. Use these tips to help you evaluate your aging parents’ anxiety and find ways for them to cope:

  • Recognize panic attacks. Having a panic attack is a frightening experience, particularly for someone who has never experienced one. The fear, chest tightness, and shortness of breath often make people think they are having a heart attack. Because these attacks can occur without any particular event to trigger the feelings of intense fear, many seniors worry constantly that they will have another one, which only increases anxiety. Help your parents understand what a panic attack is, that they are not truly in danger, and that the feelings will pass quickly. This eases the worry and helps them feel more in control.
  • Listen to them. It may seem easy to immediately dismiss your elderly parents’ worries as being outlandish or even signs of dementia, but the reality is they may have very good reasons for their anxiety but not be able to properly express it. Your father may talk about being afraid of the ghosts that make noises at night when he is actually hearing small animals in the walls. Your mother may worry that someone is trying to poison her, but it turns out the non-medical in-home caregiver bought a different type of coffee and the taste is too sharp for your mother. By listening carefully to what your parents are saying you can investigate their concerns and potentially find, and resolve, logical explanations.
  • Be aware of PTSD. Older adults come from a time when the concept of getting psychological therapy was not widely accepted. As a result, some seniors who experienced trauma may never have received any form of counseling or treatment. Years down the line they can experience triggers that cause terror and emotional pain. This is very common in elderly adults with dementia. These seniors begin reliving their horrific experiences, such as war or abuse, and are less equipped to emotionally protect themselves so they express sudden and intense reactions. Be aware of when these signs of fear and combativeness occur and try to link them with specific environmental triggers, such as bathing, sitting in a specific area, visiting a certain place, or being in the room with a particular caregiver. By identifying the post-traumatic stress disorder trigger, you can help your elderly parent avoid certain situations and modify other behaviors to prevent much of the anxiety.

If you notice that your elderly parents are suffering from high levels of anxiety and worry that it is negatively impacting their physical and mental health, get in touch with the elder care company in your area to get recommendations for support groups, therapists, and other professionals who have experience helping aging adults cope with these feelings.

If you or an aging loved one are considering non-medical in-home care in Worcester, MA, call Griswold Home Care and speak to one of our caring staff members today. Call (508) 917-6649