Anxiety is a common feeling. Almost everyone falls victim to its clutches one time or another but those who suffer from anxiety disorders or prolonged anxiety episodes understand how debilitating of a feeling anxiety can be. Although there are a number of different things that can cause anxiety, anxiety can often go unnoticed or untreated in the elderly.
It isn’t unusual for anxiety in the elderly to translate into mood swings and behavioral problems. Many caregivers often dismiss mood swings as part of the individual’s personality. While this may be the case in certain circumstances, there may be other reasons for these behavioral changes. As caregivers or medical professionals, it is important to try and understand the position and situation of the elderly individual being cared for before dismissing important signs as simply routine ups and downs.
Here are five common sources of elderly anxiety. Does the elderly person in your life possibly struggle with any of these concerns?
Source of Anxiety in the Elderly #1: The Fear of Forgetting
The possibility of forgetting a lifetime of memories often times leaves elderly men and women feeling vulnerable and unsure of themselves. Everyone, old and young alike, have forgetful moments. Keys go missing and shirts are misplaced. But, to the elderly, a forgetful moment reminds them that it can easily lead to another and then another until larger pieces of the puzzle begin to go missing. This fear leaves many feeling anxious and on edge.
Source of Anxiety in the Elderly #2: Large Crowds of People
Large crowds can be overwhelming to an elderly person, especially those who are frail and in poor health. All it takes is one bump or accidental shove to cause severe damage. A fall can easily result in a broken hip or worse.
Source of Anxiety in the Elderly #3: Being Home Alone
This is particularly true for individuals who live alone and have no one to help with daily activities and chores. The number of emergency call buttons that are now being produced are proof that slips and falls are a common occurrence among the elderly. While there may be a number of new ways to obtain help in such a situation, this doesn’t eliminate the fear that a fall or accident while alone will happen.
Source of Anxiety in the Elderly #4: Living Affordably
Living within a fixed budget can become overwhelming, especially with the cost of living skyrocketing and medical bills piling up. An elderly person may not have the option to go back to work to order to make ends meet. The idea of having to rely on friends and families or, even worse, not having a way to pay for living expenses, can produce a lot of discomfort and worry.
Source of Anxiety in the Elderly #5: Losing Independence
As elderly people grow older, they become more and more dependent on the help of others, and this can be a difficult transition to accept. Driving becomes more difficult and often times impossible and for those living in nursing homes or assisted living, even everyday tasks may require assistance. Many elderly people will adamantly deny their loss of self-reliance as they struggle to accept the changes taking place in this phase of their lives.
There are of course many other sources of anxiety for the elderly, but the five you’ve just read encompass a vast majority of the elderly population’s concerns. By understanding the causes of elderly anxiety, you can cater your interactions with your loved one or patient to help address their concerns and reduce the emotional discomfort they may be feeling. While medication can help, sometimes all that is needed is openness about the root cause of the anxiety, and finding a way to accommodate in order to provide a more reassuring, low-stress environment where the elderly patient feels comfortable.