For many people, tomorrow is always the dream age to be. Children believe life is better when you are a few years older; adults have faith that, when they get their perfect job, life will be perfect; and middle-aged adults cannot wait to retire to experience years of relaxation and travel. However, the reality for many senior citizens is that the onset of the years can lead to the increase of anxieties. Fear can detrimentally detract from both their health and the quality of life. Therefore, as your loved ones age, find ways in which you can instill calm and reassurance.
First, if the senior citizen is on any type of medication, check with their doctor or pharmacist to be sure that obsessing or anxiety is not a side effect of the medication. If this is possible, see if there is another medication that can be tried. It would be wonderful if this was the problem, but if not, still be sure the doctor knows that worry is playing a significant role in every day life. Medical reasons for such anxiety exist and can be ruled out.
One of the greatest fears of the elderly is falling. While the physical repercussions can be trying, those who live alone may worry about how long they will lie on the floor before help comes. This is a completely reasonable fear, as this experience can be traumatic and, if the sufferer doesn't receive aid right away, the injuries can worsen. The fear of falling can prevent older generations from leading an active lifestyle that would help maintain muscle and balance, actually increasing the likelihood of toppling. While falls are a very common reality for people over 65-years-old, you can make the occurrence less distressing by purchasing a medical alert system; a call button can be worn around the neck or wrist and, if the wearer falls or becomes ill, he or she can push a button and immediately get assistance. Another option is a simple cell phone, which can be especially helpful when leaving the house. Program the numbers of close friends and family on speed dial so, in a moment of panic, you're simply the push of a button away. Knowing that help is always available will provide a level of comfort that will lighten the grip of fear.
Unfortunately, many people prey on the elderly. Some seniors feel pressured and unable to say "no" to telemarketers or mail solicitation. If they get cheated often enough, the distrust may seep into their lives in other ways. Perhaps they no longer want to go to church or to the store because they do not know who may be watching or following them home. If your family member is sending money to strangers, or has been a victim of fraud, first off, notify your local law enforcement agency. While they may not be able to get the money back, the notice on file may help prosecute if enough evidence comes to light. Secondly, have caller ID installed on the phone line. Many elderly like knowing who is calling before they answer so they have the option of ignoring any call with a name they do not recognize. If the senior citizen is willing, have their mail delivered to the house of a trusted friend instead who can weed out the junk and hand over only the letters he or she will truly enjoy.
As we age, aches and pains increasingly plague our lives. The fear of this pain may keep your loved one from moving as much as one should. When you visit, try to persuade them to go for a walk with you, and perhaps provide the incentive of grabbing ice cream or seeing a grandchild's ballgame.
It is not uncommon for seniors to feel emotionally isolated and want to keep their anxieties to themselves out of fear of losing their independence or being judged. Therefore, never minimize their worries, as this may come across as condescending. Reassuring them that your top priority is their happiness and will never make any decisions without their consent or consultation will further open channels of communication. Additionally, even if you have vocalized reassurance that everything is "fine", keep an eye out for changes in behavior; if your family member has always been active, and suddenly stops, be sure that you identify the cause, as your loved one may be suffering in silence.
Often, patience is the only option when dealing with the fears of the elderly. We cannot possibly understand how they feel as we have never been in that position. At times, a person outside of the family may be the best choice to discuss the various feelings with the older individual. After all, they have spent their lives taking care of their families, so needing your assistance can be a blow to their pride. Give them all the love and patience you can and perhaps their fears will subside.