Stress and anxiety are common among our senior population. Although they have been through a lot in their lives, sometimes this causes worry and angst. There are also thoughts of their own mortality and the impact on who they might be leaving behind.
We all experience stress and occasional anxiety. Having intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations is considered an anxiety disorder. Panic attacks are when intense anxiety occurs within minutes. Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder.
In seniors, depression often goes along with anxiety. Both can affect memory, worsening conditions like dementia or cognitive decline. Many seniors have anxiety related to their declining health, stress of obtaining medical care, and loss of independence and relying on family members. Guilt of burdening their family can lead to withholding health issues or even ignoring serious conditions like cancer, delaying diagnosis, and leading to worsened prognosis.
Common signs of anxiety to watch for include excessive worry or fear, refusing to do routine activities or being overly preoccupied with routine, avoiding social situations, overly concerned about safety, racing heart, shallow breathing, trembling, nausea, sweating, insomnia, muscle tension, feeling weak and shaky, hoarding/collecting, depression, self-medication with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants.
There are treatments for anxiety disorders. Biofeedback, therapy, counseling, exercise, yoga, interacting with others all are everyday conservative measures that can be implemented right away for mild to moderate types of anxiety. Medications are also helpful, including antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and anti-anxiety ones like Benzodiazepines. These are all available by prescription only from a licensed professional. I often advise against any over-the-counter medication as dosing is not always known, side effects can worsen the situation, and active ingredients are often not known, which can lead to interactions with other medication being taken.
Our stress level and anxiety as a society have been at an all-time high, mainly related to the pandemic and all the changes we have had to endure. For seniors that has meant separation from family, loneliness, reduced appetite, and heightened hopelessness. On a bright side, our medical team has helped many of our seniors through this time, with frequent on-site visits and wellness checks, FaceTiming family during appointments, and giving back some of that hope that was lost.
My medical group continues to help seniors as the pandemic forges ahead, by teaming up with nurses, family members, other facility staff, and various ancillary service providers to help the mental health of all our seniors.
On behalf of Hansa Medical Groupe, have a safe and wonderful holiday and new year.
Hansa Medical Groupe has offices at 5250 Old Orchard Road, Suite 300, in Skokie, and in Chicago, 847-920-0902, hansamedicalgroupe.com.