It’s normal to experience anxiety at times – before starting a new job or buying a new home for example. It’s even normal to occasionally experience a full-blown bout of high anxiety – for instance during the night before you have to talk in front of an audience. However, if you are caring for a senior loved one, and you find that their level of anxiety is constantly interfering with their normal daily activities, it may be best to consult a medical professional before the situation gets any worse.
What Exactly is Anxiety?
Although it is part of the human condition to deal with apprehension, there’s a big difference between levels of anxiety. Lower levels of stress tend to pertain to specific events. For example, the slight panic that you may not meet a work deadline or the nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach when you decide to ask your boss for a raise. However, high levels of anxiety don’t go away and can prevent the sufferer from being able to carry out normal everyday activities.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
If your older loved one is afraid to leave the house or to be in a crowded space, it’s possible they are suffering from an anxiety disorder, of which there are several types:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This kind of disorder is usually long-lasting. Your senior will tend to unreasonably assume that the worst possible outcome is inevitably going to occur. They will also engage in exaggerated worries about most aspects of their daily life. Physical symptoms may include fatigue, headaches, and muscle tension.
A phobia is an irrational fear of something that can be so extreme that it becomes disabling. Your senior might develop a terrified reaction that thunderstorms are on the way on every gray day, be afraid to walk close to tall buildings, or be too scared to get into an elevator.
A panic attack is a feeling of terror that comes on suddenly and often for no apparent reason. The symptoms of a panic attack can include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains, and a fear of dying.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
If the elderly adult in your home has gone through a traumatic event in their past life, they can experience flashbacks and nightmares. They are also likely to be easily startled, irritable, or even depressed.
Does Anxiety Get Worse with Age?
Unfortunately, anxiety can get worse as people grow older. One reason is that there are often more things to be anxious about – deteriorating health, financial worries, and the prospective loss of a partner.
Is There Treatment for Anxiety in the Elderly?
If you are dealing with anxiety that’s affecting a senior adult in your life, it’s important to face up to it and not try to pretend that it’s not happening or that it’s just a normal part of aging. As people become older, anxiety not only affects their quality of life, but it can also increase their risk of dying too soon. Medications are available to treat anxiety, but because of potential side effects, some doctors feel that psychotherapy should be tried first.
If You Can’t Cope, Seek Help
Since 1995, Caring Health Care in Columbia, SC has been a resource center for those seeking support when caring for elderly relatives in their homes. If your senior is suffering from abnormal levels of anxiety, talk to us, and together we will formulate a best-care plan. We want both you and your senior to be as anxiety free as possible so that you can enjoy life together.