Anxiety can impact anyone at almost any age. However, seniors tend to be less likely to seek out help for it.
Taking care of the mental health of an aging population should be a priority for everyone. The Baby Boomer generation is getting older, and elderly people are prone to feelings of anxiety and depression for a variety of reasons. They can struggle with loneliness and isolation, the fear of health issues, finances, and much more.
So, why aren’t they often as willing to get the help they need — and deserve? More importantly, what can you do to help the seniors in your life manage their mental health, especially if they’re struggling with anxiety?
The Mental Health Stigma
One of the biggest reasons why seniors aren’t seeking out help is the lingering stigma surrounding mental health.
It’s important to remember that older generations were raised in periods of history where mental health wasn’t as openly talked about or even accepted as it is today. Many people still stigmatize things like anxiety or depression and might not want to recognize them as “real” conditions.
Even if some seniors realize they’re struggling with invasive thoughts, they might be less likely to reach out for help because they think talking about their mental health makes them weak, or they don’t want to accept what’s really going on.
Fear of a Diagnosis
Many of today’s seniors also grew up with doctors and specialists who might not have provided the gentlest care. It’s not uncommon for seniors to have a fear of doctors that might be rooted in childhood.
If the senior in your life struggles with going to a doctor for their physical health, they’re likely going to have just as much of a hard time seeing someone for their mental well-being.
It Can Be Difficult to Diagnose
Even if older adults acknowledge mental health conditions and don’t stigmatize them, they might not express that they’re struggling. Some people might think whatever they’re feeling is just a part of getting older.
As a result, they might try to minimize their symptoms in front of loved ones, or even do what they can to ignore them on their own. Anxiety can vary in severity, so if someone doesn’t necessarily feel “crippled” by it all of the time, it can be easy to push through the difficult times and try to play off the condition as something less than what it actually is.
What Can You Do?
Whether you’re an adult child of an aging parent or you’re a caregiver of a senior, it’s important to recognize the signs of anxiety so you can offer help. Some of the most common signs of anxious thoughts in older individuals include:
- Excessive worry or fear
- Avoiding social situations
- Excessive checking and re-checking things for safety
- Physical symptoms like trembling or a racing heart
If you’ve noticed any of these signs, it’s never too early (or too late!) to encourage your loved one(s) to get help. For starters, be their support system. Educate yourself and them on mental health and anxiety, and explain some of the common signs and symptoms to them. The more they know about it, the easier it might be for them to admit they’re struggling.
The good news? Anxiety is often very manageable at any age. However, it rarely goes away on its own. One of the best things you can do is encourage professional guidance, like therapy. You can even help your older loved one find a therapist that meets their needs and set up appointments for them.
If there’s a senior in your life struggling with anxiety, let them know they’re not alone. Feel free to contact me to set up an appointment for anxiety therapy soon, so they can live their golden years without fear or worry.