If you’re someone with an elderly parent, you might have noticed some changes in their behavior. It might seem normal for an older person to slow down later in life and do less, but your parent might also battle the anxieties that tend to plague their generation.
As they grow older, your parents begin to fear what’s next, whether it’s the death of their spouse, the end of their retirement funds or the inability to live at home without assistance. An illness or fall can add to the anxiety they feel.
Fortunately, you’ve already conquered the first step in helping a parent who’s experiencing such feelings — you’ve recognized there’s a problem. The following are five more steps to take to assuage their fear of aging.
1. Enlist the Family Doctor
Logically, your first step is a visit to your parent’s primary care physician. This is an especially smart place to start if you know your mom or dad has a good relationship with their doctor — they might be more comfortable opening up about their fears and anxieties to someone they trust, and someone who won’t worry about their well-being as much as you might.
Once the physician hears how your parent is feeling, they may prescribe medication meant to calm the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety. Or, they can suggest other tried-and-true ways to alleviate stress such as light exercise.
If you think there might be a deeper issue than anxiety, ask your parent’s doctor to perform the necessary tests to rule anything else out. Neurological disorders such as dementia can cause a person to feel distressed.
2. Pair Your Parent With a Therapist
Another way to combat anxiety is with the help of a therapist. Seek out a cognitive behavioral specialist, as they can arm your parent with methods for undoing or avoiding the habits that make them feel afraid.
One way to alleviate fears is to identify the common or circulated fears associated with aging and overcome them. It’s especially vital in a world where growing old can seem negative — the perception of aging ends up sounding very different for those who experience it, though. In fact, many say they feel younger in their old age than they did before, and, with a little bit of cognitive training, your parent might feel the same way.
3. Equip Their Home With Safety Features
Another anxiety-inducing fear for seniors is the fact that they could fall or otherwise hurt themselves while home alone. You can’t prevent every accident, but you can help them reduce some of that worry by outfitting their home with safety features that make it easier for your parent to live independently.
Of course, every property’s needs will be different, as will every parent’s. For example, you might consider adding bars to the shower for easy entry and exit, or a stairlift to help with transportation between floors in the home. Your parent should have a cell phone on hand, too, so they can quickly call for help if they need it.
Taking things a step further, you or another adult could provide help so your parent can more easily complete these types of activities, as well as others that may cause strain. A caretaker will also provide companionship, which some seniors crave, especially if they’ve lost their spouse or other loved ones who used to fill that role.
4. Help Them Find Social Activities
Having too much time alone to think about life and the future can play into your parent’s anxiety. Again, this especially applies to those who live alone or have lost their closest confidants — they might feel as though they no longer have a social outlet.
But there are plenty of ways for your parent to get out, meet people and socialize. The top social activities for seniors typically kill two birds with one stone — they introduce members of the elderly community and get them moving. Fitness classes, dancing and walking are all examples of how your mom or dad could meet new people, despite their age.
Another excellent opportunity for seniors is volunteering. For one thing, volunteering gives everyone a sense of purpose, which could mean a lot to your parent after raising kids, retiring and more. Plus, helping the less fortunate always provides perspective — a perspective that could give your parent a new way to combat their anxiety.
5. Be a Listening Ear
Finally, you likely are already but do your best to provide support for your parent throughout their aging. You don’t know exactly how they feel, of course, but you can listen and help them to the best of your ability. The above are only four ways to help — they might describe more specific needs that require a tailored course of action.
Together, you can help your parent overcome any lingering fears about aging and help them take advantage of their freedom. With support and love from their family, you’ll find your parents can do just about anything.