Owning It, The Anxiety Podcast
Helping to relieve elderly anxiety
The ageing process isn’t easy and can bring about some huge life changes such as bereavement, moving house, being less active and coping with your changing body and mind. So it’s not surprising that over a quarter of older adults have reported symptoms of anxiety. This sense of fear and dread can manifest in different ways (itching skin, insomnia, wanting to constantly be in touch with you, scared to go out alone) and it can be crippling and constant.
This is scary for the older person going through it, but also stressful and worrying for you – their child, friend or care giver. The first step towards helping them is understanding more of what they’re going through.
We’ve been following Caroline Foran’s Owning It, The Anxiety Podcast for a while and thought it would be helpful to share it with you. In these episodes, Caroline talks away in her relaxing Irish lilt, opening up about her experience of crippling anxiety and speaks with others who have been through similar scenarios, or supported people through it. Whilst it’s not specifically elderly-focused, Caroline’s interviews help to explain anxiety. She covers coping strategies, anti-anxiety medication, anxiety about being sick and more.
The episode we especially like is Owning It: How To Support Someone With Anxiety. Caroline sits down with her husband to talk about what to do (and not do!) and what’s it like for the other person. Here’s what we learnt from it:
Allow them to experience anxiety.
When supporting someone with anxiety, we can sometimes try and encourage them to get over it. Whilst this comes from a place of love, it’s easier said than done. Instead, be supportive. Show you understand they are having these feelings and help them rationalise it so that they can see the thoughts are negative. Their anxiety may be a part of them, and you normalising the situation can help.
Help them understand what they’re going through.
Especially with older people, there can be a stigma around mental health and they could be feeling ashamed of their anxiety. Have a chat and identify how the anxiety is showing itself. Are there coping mechanisms you can develop together? For example, outings where you increase the time you’re outside each week? Or writing down what has caused certain feelings to emerge to see if there’s a pattern.
Tell them they’re not a burden.
Check in with them, and reassure them you’re there. Could a call at the same time each day help to create structure and give them support so they feel like they’re not alone. This could be shared between care givers so it’s not all on you.
Try a general chat.
Not every conversation needs to be about their anxiety. Make them feel like the person you know, instead of the anxiety. This removes the pressure on them to try and feel normal, and hopefully leads to a nice conversation for the both of you! If their anxiety is all they have been able to talk about, this may encourage them to think beyond it.
Understand their medication.
Do they understand all the medication they’re taking and its side effects? This could be fuelling their anxiety, so take the time to go through it with them. This may involve a trip to the doctor to get a medical perspective and see if everything is still needed.
And if you want some more support as to how best care for someone with anxiety, we recommend you look at the Mind website.
Anxiety is such a huge topic so before we sign off, we wanted to look at why we experience it, and some other products and services that might be useful.
What is anxiety and why do we experience it?
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress or when we perceive that we are under threat (be that physical or emotional). The fight or flight reaction that evolved when we were hunter-gatherers is still there and this kicks in, releasing hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. They make us feel more alert and our heart beats faster. When our body deems the threat to have passed, another hormone is released which relaxes our muscles and can cause us to shake.
What are the best products to help with anxiety?
Anxiety can trigger insomnia. A relaxing sleep spray like this from Avon infused with lavender and camomile, can help you drift off. Just spray a few spritzes on the pillow.
As the name suggests, these are blankets or duvets which are filled with a material (e.g. plastic pellets) and weigh about 7kg. It’s believed that the deep pressure from this weight has a calming effect, similar to that of being hugged or swaddled. They also restrict movement so you’re less likely to disturb yourself during sleep. Starting at around £70, we recommend this one from Amazon.
Whilst we’re on the subject of podcasts, we couldn’t resist plugging this one too! Each episode is a short, guided meditation (ranging from three to 10 minutes) to help you feel calm and relaxed. If your elderly parent is happy to have noise in their room, this could help. Listen on Spotify or iTunes.
White noise machine
These aren’t just great for getting babies to sleep! White noise is a consistent sound containing every frequency that the human ear can hear, both high and low. This means it is a good tool for blocking out or masking particular noises that can be distracting when trying to sleep. Try this LectroFan White Noise machine.