Helping Your Senior Loved Ones Manage Anxiety

As people age, anxiety can start to develop for a number of reasons and magnitudes including the fear of loss, loss of mobility, and both physical and emotional distress.  Anxiety is a normal part of human emotion to deal with, but helping your senior loved ones minimize their stress levels will keep them from being emotionally overwhelmed and increase their happiness.

The National Institutes of Health reported that in any given year, three to fourteen percent of seniors suffer from an anxiety disorder. The anxiety can be rooted in a variety of circumstances.  The stress can, at times, be caused by past traumatic experiences or painful periods of time in their life. Alternately, physical ailments can also be the source of the anxiety, like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, stroke or even mental illness.  Sometimes the anxiety is simply hereditary and others it is caused from substances like prescription drugs, alcohol, caffeine, or even illegal ones.

Alice Jacobs Vestergaard, EdD, is a certified health education specialist and faculty at Ashford University’s College of Health, Human Services, and Science located in San Diego.  She claims that anxiety can also appear in seniors simply due to the process of aging.  “Anxiety can come from common fears related to aging such as falling and suffering a debilitating injury; being unable to afford living expenses such as rent, medication, and food; being victimized; being dependent on others; feeling alone; and fear of death.”

If you suspect a senior loved one of experiencing anxiety of any sort, it is important that you assist them in seeking help.  It can be challenging at times to gain their compliance, but persistence and insistence go a long way.  First start with a physical from the family physician to rule out the possibility of physical ailments, and also because they will most likely open up more to a doctor they know and trust.  The physician can refer your loved one to a mental health doctor if need be.

If they are healthy enough, encourage your loved one to volunteer and join social functions. Vestergaard explained that “This provides a meaningful focus and purpose that can help them manage their changing circumstances.” The main idea here is to get them out and active and working towards something meaningful.  That is the absolute best medicine for combating senior anxiety.