Senior Citizens and Anxiety: Five Indicators

anxiety-senior-citizenFor families and friends with aging loved ones, the signs of anxiety and depression can be subtle and build up over time.

Barb Brauer, a licensed clinical social worker with Christian County Mental Health, shares these common signs that indicate anxiety or depression in an elderly person.

• Losing interest in activities that used to bring joy
• Becoming isolated and withdrawn
• Overeating or not eating enough
• Increasing physical complaints
• Interrupted sleep that leads to sleep deprivation

One 70+ senior described his cycle of anxiety and depression like a little tape that kept playing over and over again in his mind, each time getting a little more negative.

He experienced anxiety and depression after having knee replacement and vision issues and feared the stigma of “mental” problems. He tried individual therapy, but didn’t feel like he was improving. Eventually, he joined the Taylorville Memorial Hospital Senior Life Solutions program.

“Even after the second or third group session, you start to come together and feel more like family,” he said. “Most people don’t want to come in at first. Our generation feels like we have to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps! But once you get here and see what it’s all about, most end up staying.”

Gratitude and visualization exercises as well as other coping mechanisms helped him (and 70 others who have graduated from the program) recognize the importance of living one day at a time instead of worrying about things that can’t be controlled. Eating lunch together as a group also lessens feelings of isolation.

Amy Graham, RN, who directs Senior Life Solutions, is pleased with the results she sees from group therapy for participating seniors.

“You’re not focused on just one person, and that tends to help people feel more comfortable,” she said. “It is an important moment when they realize other people are facing similar experiences–it takes the pressure off. Our group often has lunch together and we’ll occasionally do movie days. Laughter is the best medicine.”

For more information, contact Barb Brauer at 217-824-1897 or Amy Graham at 217-824-1896.

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