Is Caring For Aging Parents Making You Anxious?

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Hello, again.  Carolyn and Mikol here

I’ve just been talking to colleagues here in Marin County about helping to educate our community about anxiety, a problem that affects so many.  Here is some information we’ve gathered to put on our local Psychological Association site to help everyone get a better understanding about anxiety.

Anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association, is  an emotion that creates feelings of tension, worry, and increased blood pressure.

Does this sound familiar?  Many adult children caring for aging loved ones feel that tension and worry.  They may also have penetrating, recurring thoughts. These recurring thoughts and worries can arise from day to day activities or specific events. Anxiety can physically manifest itself in symptoms like sweating, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and trembling.

When these symptoms are extreme, a person might feel that she is suffering from a heart attack. Psychologists might call the more pronounced forms of anxiety a disorder that needs care and treatment. Those suffering from the more severe form of anxiety may find it challenging to accomplish even the simplest of tasks for fear that something bad may happen to them or the possibility that something might go wrong. They have trouble staying in the moment or living for now.   They  focus on the “what if” scenarios. They complain that they can’t turn off racing thoughts through the mind that evoke a sense of panic. Besides the negative emotional toll on the mind that anxiety can take, the physical residual effects are detrimental as well.  Symptoms might include weight loss, weight gain, hair loss, and stomach discomfort, back or other pain.
Excessive, irrational fear and dread are hallmarks of a problem that can benefit greatly from treatment.  The good news is that there are many good treatment options for anxiety. One treatment option that clinical psychologists offer is called cognitive behavioral therapy. This technique helps a person change the connection between specific thoughts and their irrational fear and dread. The ability to self-monitor one’s own  thoughts can help the person gain control over their emotions. This directly aids in stopping the perpetuation of anxiety or depressive feelings.

In addition, psychologists help people learn breathing and relaxation techniques that can be used to eliminate, manage and assuage anxiety. In some cases especially when anxiety has been present in a patient’s life for many years, medications maybe the best way to provide rapid relieve of emotional symptoms.  Newer anti-depressive mediations called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) are often used as a first line of defense in the treatment of anxiety disorders. People often report experiencing less anxiety and improved mood from taking these medications within two to four weeks.

It is critical to understand that medications do not cure anxiety or anxiety depressive disorders.  Professional treatment (“psychotherapy”) is needed to develop new coping methods, along with a deeper understanding of the complex workings of one’s mind. Once a person learns the techniques, successful alternative action strategies can assure and sustain ongoing changes for the better.

The heavy pressures of caring for aging parents in declining health, the rising demands on one’s time and the sadness of seeing a parent get worse over time can make anyone anxious. If the symptoms you are feeling are getting in the way of doing what you need to do in your life, don’t wait to get professional help. The problem is likely to only get worse over time.

Anxiety is often irrational and cannot be treated logically. Many people do not truly understand anxiety disorder, and think they can just will themselves to be cured. Or maybe the anxiety symptoms will just magically go away if they try to no longer think about them. Most people can’t cure themselves. There is no need to suffer when help from a professional can relieve the emotional pain.  If these symptoms sound like what you are feeling, reach out.  You can find a professional to help you through your local Mental Health Association or your insurance provider.  Low cost services are available in many counties for those who do not have insurance or who are low income.

We care about each of you and hope you will take good care of yourself.  If your aging parent worries are getting you down and you need advice and support, contact us for a complimentary strategy session at AgingParents.com.

Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt, and Dr. Mikol Davis
AgingParents.com

 
 

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