Anxiety in Older Age

Anxiety disorders are characterised by worry, fear or dread that may be disproportionate to the situation and interfere with a person’s daily life. This can manifest in several ways, for instance as phobias, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But the most common anxiety disorder diagnosed in older adults is generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Home Care, Caregivers, Anxiety, Mental Health

For older adults, anxiety more commonly occurs in the following circumstances:

  • Following extreme stress or trauma
  • Following a bereavement
  • With the consumption of caffeine, alcohol and other drugs
  • During a period of financial stress
  • Neurodegenerative illnesses (such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia)
  • With other illnesses

Signs and symptoms of anxiety include excessive worry; avoiding social situations; being overly concerned about safety; physical symptoms such as a racing heart, shallow breathing and nausea; poor sleep and hoarding behaviours. 

If you are concerned about a loved one, signs to watch out for include changes in daily routines, discussion about worries that seem excessive, increases in alcohol intake or over-the-counter medications and changes in overall mood. 

Treatment options for anxiety include:

  • Psychological services;
  • Medications; and
  • Lifestyle changes.

A carer can help by implementing positive lifestyle changes to improve physical and mental health. Lifestyle changes may include assistance with healthy meals, help to get active, assistance with household chores, and emotional and social support. They can also provide transportation and support to attend medical appointments. 

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