International Day for Elderly: Tackle your elders’ anxiety issue with care

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought forth challenges, more so regarding the mental health of the elders. Here’s everything you need to know.
A healthy and happy home environment will keep anxiety among elders at bay. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Ruhi Isaac James Published: 1 Oct 2021, 08:43 am IST
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The lockdowns and restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, coupled with the stretched condition of healthcare infrastructure, have impinged on the mental health of citizens. This is intensified in the case of elderly people whose children live away from them, whether in India or abroad.

Being confined at home amid the pandemic has made life tougher for older people. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Co-morbid conditions are common among elders. As the number of Covid cases oscillates, senior citizens are fearful of contracting the disease, and therefore limit their movement and socializing. Social isolation itself is a primary cause of anxiety and other psychological problems in addition to the risk of contracting coronavirus infection. 

If infected by Covid-19, the self-isolation (in mild cases) or recovery in the hospital is a traumatic and lonely experience.

What are the challenges that the elders face?

As these older adults age, they face challenges such as not being able to find attendants to assist with daily living tasks, inaccessibility to medical treatment, and perceived apprehension about adverse outcomes from their chronic conditions. Continual media and other communication about the risk of potentially fatal complications from the Covid-19 infection have created a feeling of helplessness and anxiety.

Around 20% of India’s senior population suffers from mental health issues. Psychological distress cannot be ignored when most of them live by themselves. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in seniors complaining of sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and a general feeling of fear and uncertainty.

A psychological perspective on elderly health should be given special attention, among other factors. Death anxiety is the most prevalent anxiety symptom of old age. Several recent studies, including one published in the Asian Journal of Geriatric Health, find that the current pandemic has worsened phobias, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. It may have catastrophic personal experiences leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While there is a continuous effort to remove the stigma around mental illness and anxiety, a plethora of measures such as social facilitation interventions, psychological therapies, health, and social care provision, befriending interventions, and leisure skill development can be helpful in mitigating mental health consequences during isolation.

Fostering feelings of safety and connectedness, as well as community efficacy, are effective in preventing the negative effects of social isolation.

Also Read: 4 important things nobody tells you about caring for a sick parent

Ensure that your elders indulge in some physical activity to keep them calm. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
A healthy mind and body is key to calm anxiety among elders

According to the World Health Organisation, a healthy person should possess a healthy mind and a healthy body. Psychological changes and mental health problems are among the most significant changes associated with aging throughout the world. Anxiety and depression can be tackled with proper geriatric care dedicated to scientific analysis and quality treatments and solutions. 

Many elders require special attention, but we know there are many more who need support. The biggest challenge is who recognises it, and who will push them to get help. 

The approach to deal with psychological issues has to be sustainable, affordable, tailor-made to elders, and have an independent engagement for stay home elders. 

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The role of technology to keep the elders busy and connected with family and friends cannot be ignored, where they can stay connected with their families and friends and also keep themselves engaged with online activities. The role of counselors is being recognised as one of the upcoming needs because counselors do not prescribe, but listen. 

The pace of change is fast for our elders to adopt, but there is no other way but to adapt and to find the right partner through this tough journey.

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About the Author

Dr Ruhi Isaac James, Chief Medical Officer, KITES senior care – Geriatric Care Centre ...Read More

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