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  • Writer's pictureThe Care Company

Tips for Recognizing Anxiety in an Older Loved One


Is an older adult you love struggling with socializing, sleeping well or enjoying activities, or experiencing memory problems? Before chalking it up to the typical effects of growing older, consider another culprit: anxiety.


In addition to these symptoms, anxiety in an older loved one can display through:

  • Repetitive behaviors, such as handwashing

  • Overreactions to whatever is triggering symptoms

  • Nightmares

  • Obsessive thinking

  • Physical effects such as trembling, heart palpitations, nausea, sweating, and more


While there isn’t always a known cause for anxiety in seniors, it’s believed to be impacted by a combination of environmental and situational factors common to aging, including:

  • Medication side effects

  • Loss (or perceived loss) of independence

  • Grief

  • Health and mobility complications

  • Childhood trauma

  • And more

Common Types of Anxiety in Older Adults

Though a generalized anxiety disorder is often diagnosed, there are some more specific types of anxiety problems that are common in older adults, including:

  • OCD: OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, drives a person to perform repetitive actions in order to control unwanted compulsions or thoughts. This gives a feeling of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. The person may feel the need to check that the oven is switched off multiple times or count the number of tiles on the floor before leaving the house.

  • Phobias: Phobias are fears associated with a particular item or circumstance. For instance, someone may experience heightened anxiety only if facing medical procedures or appointments, heights, thunderstorms, insects, etc.

  • Social anxiety disorder: This particular anxiety is displayed by extreme feelings of nervousness or self-consciousness in social situations. It may cause a person to avoid socializing, limiting their ability to make and maintain connections with others.

How Can You Help Ease Anxiety in an Older Loved One?

The first step is scheduling an appointment with the senior’s primary care physician. There are helpful treatment options, from prescription medications to counseling and changes in lifestyle. You can also:

  • Provide the person with lots of opportunities to talk. Knowing they can trust you with their thoughts and feelings, without fear of judgment, can be extremely helpful and freeing.

  • Encourage them to get plenty of sleep every night. Lack of sleep can increase anxiety by as much as 30%, according to a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Help the person understand the need to avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other stimulants that may exacerbate anxiety.

The Care Company is here to help ease anxiety in an older loved one as well. A caregiver makes a great companion for an older adult to talk to and engage with calming, enjoyable activities, which can improve mental health. We can also prepare nourishing meals, encourage the implementation of stress management techniques, and much more. Reach out to us online or call us at (416) 422-2273 to learn more about how we can help someone you love.

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