Your elderly parent’s mental health is just as important as his physical health as you help him to live independently in his home. Sometimes we can get so caught up in taking care of someone’s physical needs that the mental needs are forgotten or pushed to the side. If your parent has been showing indications of struggling with anxiety, you should set up an appointment with his physician to determine the cause of the anxiety. Some medications can increase anxiety and some other health issues (such as an overactive thyroid) can also create anxiety in your parent.
Once you have worked with your parent’s physician, there are things you can do at home as you take care of your parent that will help reduce the anxiety he is dealing with. These tips are also great to share with anyone else who may be caring for your parent, such as a home care provider or other family members.
Maintain a routine.
Anxiety can be wrapped up in not knowing what to expect each day. If you find this causes your parent to feel especially anxious, work with him to develop a regular routine for him. It might be as simple as to make sure he doesn’t have any surprise visitors. Plan those visits from his home care provider to be consistent and make sure your parent knows when to expect them. It might also be helpful for his daily routine to be consistent, with getting up at the same time each day and creating daily habits like walking after breakfast or having a lunch visitor every Tuesday.
For some people, speaking about their anxiety is one way for them to manage it better. If your parent wants to share his concerns and worries, listen actively and let him speak freely. Don’t shame his thoughts or disregard his concerns, even if you can’t relate to them. Your parent will feel more comfortable (and less anxious) if he knows he can share his concerns with you and still be treated with dignity and respect. A home care provider can also be a sounding board for your parent, if they feel more comfortable talking to someone other than their adult child.
Your parent may just need help turning his brain away from its worries. Once you have listened well to your parent, encourage your parent to do something that will distract him from his worries and help his mind focus on other things. It might be a walk around the block, working on a puzzle, or calling a family member (especially a grandchild, they’re great at distractions!).
Refer to professional opinions.
If your parent is worried about the possibly of a tornado destroying his home, or the risk of suddenly developing a deadly disease, it might help to do some research with your parent to help him see the low risk of what he is worrying about. Just learning the facts about a topic can help reduce the anxiety around it.
If you find anxiety continues to rob your parent of his quality of life, medications and/or professional therapy can help him manage his anxiety and get back to enjoying life.