Seniors often suffer from anxiety and stress and this disorder can have a major impact on their quality of life. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage it. Here are just a few:
- Stress from being dependent on others
- Cost of living expenses or medical expenses
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Fear of falling or other medical emergencies
It’s so important to notice the signs of anxiety in seniors. Being irritable, startling easily, having difficulty sleeping, and withdrawing from normal activity are just some signs of anxiety and stress. Most seniors are more likely to mention their physical symptoms as opposed to their emotional symptoms. They may complain of headaches, muscle tension, nausea, digestive issues and/or change in diet.
If you are noticing any of these changes in the senior in your life, there are some ways we can help to manage some of these symptoms
- Breathing exercises. Deep breathing is a great way to manage symptoms of anxiety. When you breathe deeply, you get more carbon dioxide in your blood, which can sooth the parts of the brain responsible for anxiety. Try to breathe so that your stomach expands when you inhale and deflates when you exhale. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, and exhale for four counts.
- Physical Activity. Often when a senior becomes isolated and stops doing the things they love, this can sometimes trigger feelings of anxiety and stress. Getting outside for a walk, dancing, chair exercises, swimming or small weights.
- Diet changes. Proper nutrition is critical for your mental and physical well-being. The food we eat fuels our brains, so getting the right balance daily is key to our overall health. Some substances are a direct link to an increase in anxiety such as coffee or caffeine and nicotine.
- Social interaction. Many seniors experience isolation and loneliness often due to their mobility issues and/or location. It is important to stay involved in your community in whatever capacity that looks like. Senior centres, day programs and even family members can assist with ensuring our seniors have that vital social interaction daily.
- Routines. A lack of routine can often be an anxious part of their daily life. Especially in seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s, having a regular routine of getting up and going to bed is key to their physical and mental health. Perhaps getting up at the same time daily, eating at the same time for breakfast lunch and dinner, or even a call from a loved one at a specific time daily helps to ease the anxiousness.
- A lack of sleep and/or routine can cause anxiety and stress. Sometimes the aide of certain things can alleviate this. Perhaps a noise cancelling machine at bed time? Unwind by listening to music or reading a book. Have a medical alert system in place in case of those overnight emergencies.
- Relaxing hobbies. Drawing, colouring, painting, reading, sewing or knitting or gardening are just a few options that often calm our minds.
- Often an unbiased opinion for a senior instead of talking to family is key. During these sessions you and your counsellor can try to figure out what the seniors triggers are, and ways in which to assist with calming those fears, anxiety and stress.
There are many resources that can help you assist the senior in your life experiencing anxiety and stress. The key is to approach the subject in a way that they would be open to. Suggestions and material can be given to them to read, and make the decision on their own. A great resource is below: