Aging is accompanied by a variety of common changes. Shifts in sleeping and eating habits, memory, and interests in certain activities are oftentimes attributed to the natural process of growing older. Yet, these very changes can sometimes be signs of a frequently overlooked and untreated condition in older adults: anxiety.
Understanding Anxiety: Other Common Signs
In addition to the red flags noted above, an older adult with anxiety may experience:
- Excessive sweating
- Obsessive thinking
- The need for repetition in specific activities, such as handwashing
- A racing heart
- Extreme overreactions
- And more
What Causes Anxiety in Older Adults?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to anxiety in older adults, including:
- Feeling as though they have lost their freedom
- A chronic health condition
- Trauma from their past
- Loss of a friend or family member
- Side effects from medications
- Difficulties with mobility
- And more
What Are the Most Common Types of Anxiety?
In many cases, a doctor will diagnose a person with generalized anxiety disorder, which covers an array of anxieties. In addition, there are three specific types of anxiety that may be diagnosed:
- Phobias: Phobias are fears of a very specific object or situation. The person may, for instance, feel particularly fearful of dental or doctor visits, insects, thunderstorms, the dark, being alone, etc.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Also known as OCD, this condition causes the person to go through specific rituals, often repeatedly, to manage compulsions or unwanted thoughts. These behaviors, such as washing hands over and over again or checking to be sure the door is locked multiple times, provide a sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation.
- Social anxiety disorder: Social anxiety disorder occurs when the individual experiences extreme nervousness or self-consciousness in social situations. This can be debilitating, leading the individual to avoid socializing altogether, something that is harmful for both their emotional and physical wellbeing.
How Can You Help an Older Adult With Anxiety?
The good news is there are successful treatment options available for individuals with anxiety, ranging from counseling to medications to lifestyle changes. First, schedule an appointment with the physician for a diagnosis and recommendations. Additionally, you can:
- Speak with the person frequently, allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings. Merely listening without judgment will help instill a sense of calm and self-worth in a loved one.
- Recommend steering clear of nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants, all of which can increase anxiety.
- Encourage better sleeping habits if needed. A recent study released by the University of California, Berkeley revealed that insufficient sleep can elevate anxiety up to 30%.
How Home Care Can Help
Grace Home Care can help ease anxiety for older adults in a variety of ways. Our caregivers are fantastic companions for conversations, calming activities, and exercise. We can also plan and prepare healthy meals, provide medication reminders, offer transportation to medical or therapy appointments, and much more.