Top Tips for Recognizing and Assisting With Anxiety in Seniors

woman comforting senior lady
Learn how to notice and help with anxiety in seniors with these tips.

Is an older adult you love struggling with sleeping well, enjoying activities, socializing, or experiencing memory problems? Before chalking it up to the typical effects of getting older, consider another common culprit: anxiety.

In addition to these symptoms, anxiety in seniors can show up as:

  • Obsessive thinking
  • Nightmares
  • Overreactions to whatever is triggering symptoms
  • Repetitive behaviors, such as handwashing
  • Physical effects such as heart palpitations, trembling, nausea, sweating, and more

While there isn’t always a known cause for anxiety in seniors, it is believed to be impacted by a variety of situational and environmental factors common to aging, including:

  • Grief
  • Loss (or perceived loss) of independence
  • Childhood trauma
  • Medication side effects
  • Health and mobility complications
  • And more

Common Types of Anxiety in Seniors

Though a generalized anxiety disorder is frequently diagnosed, there are some more specific types of anxiety problems that are common in older adults, including:

  • OCD: OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, drives an individual to perform repetitive actions in order to control unwanted compulsions or thoughts. This provides a feeling of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. The individual may feel the need to make sure that the oven is switched off multiple times or count the number of tiles on the floor before leaving the home.
  • Social anxiety disorder: This particular anxiety is displayed by extreme feelings of nervousness or self-consciousness in social situations. It may cause a person to avoid socializing, limiting their ability to make and keep connections with others.
  • Phobias: Phobias are fears related to a certain item or circumstance. For example, someone may experience heightened anxiety only when facing medical appointments or procedures, thunderstorms, insects, heights, etc.

What Are the Best Ways to Help a Senior With Anxiety?

The initial step is scheduling an appointment with the senior’s primary care physician. There are helpful treatment options, from prescription medications to counseling and lifestyle changes. You can also:

  • Provide the person with lots of opportunities to talk. Knowing they can trust you with their thoughts and feelings, without the concern of judgment, can be extremely helpful and freeing.
  • Encourage them to get plenty of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can increase anxiety by as much as 30%, according to a study performed by the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Help the person understand the need to avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other stimulants, which could exacerbate anxiety.

Serenity Home Care, a trusted provider of home care services in Victoria, Saanich, and the nearby areas, is here to help as well. A caregiver makes a great companion for a senior to talk to and engage with enjoyable, calming activities. We can also prepare nourishing meals, encourage the implementation of stress management techniques, and much more. Email or call us at 250-590-8098 for more information on how we can help someone you love.