As you grow older the changes in health and life circumstances often present challenges that cause you to question your ability to cope with the sources of stress in your life. It is not possible to eliminate stress; it is possible to better understand its source and learn ways to manage it through individual counseling.
Excess worry, whatever its source, can lead to Anxiety.
Situations that cause intense sadness, isolation or feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are some of the many things that can lead to Depression.
The multiple losses that are part of normal aging can create symptoms of Grief.
We can help you manage all of these needs through individual counseling.
The terms “worry” and “anxiety” are often used interchangeably. There are similarities:
- Both are rooted in fear,
- They are most often associated with stress.
Stress is part of life. It is difficult to define, because what causes stress for one person may have little or no effect on another. Something perceived as stressful one day may not produce stress on another day. It only becomes an issue when one’s ability to cope is challenged, which ultimately produces fear, of losing control of something significant to the individual. What follows may be worry, but it may or may not become anxiety.
- Most often focused on one thing or situation,
- It typically does not interfere with day to day functioning,
- It is usually short-lived, and
- Given the necessary attention, it can often be resolved with little or no involvement by others.
- Fear about many things,
- It continues over a longer period of time,
- It can significantly affect one’s ability to cope with everyday functioning,
- It can exacerbate existing health conditions,
- If left untreated it can cause other more serious conditions.
Individuals can experience anxiety at any age, but it can be cause for significant concern for old adults. In an article in Geriatrics and Aging, Anxiety was referred to as “The Silent Geriatric Giant.” . At that time anxiety was found to be more prevalent than the dementias and major depression among the elderly. Diagnosing and treating anxiety in older adults can be difficult for a number of reasons.
- Mental health problems continue to be stigmatized in our society, especially among older adults, so symptoms are often identified as something else… digestive problems, headache, back pain, etc.;
- Other physical and mental health conditions can have some of the same symptoms;
- Longer lifespans often result in multiple health problems, requiring more medication and a greater likelihood for negative side effects.
One of the greatest myths of aging is that Depression is normal and inevitable. While not uncommon, it is neither “normal” nor “inevitable.” Some of Depression symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:
- Complaints of aches and pains, excessive fatigue, changes in sleep, impaired speech, loss of appetite, blurred vision, dizziness, for which there is no identifiable cause
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering things,
- Irritability, mood swings or constant complaining for no apparent reason,
- Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness about life,
- Obvious changes in speech or behavior,
- Excessive irritability,
- Impaired judgement about things that could result in harm to the individual and/or others,
- Embarrassing social behavior.
Grief is generally thought of as something that one experiences after the death of a family member, or another person with whom you had a close relationship. The significance of grief as it relates to aging can be better understood in the broader context that grief is as “a normal response to loss,” and that multiple “losses” are part of the reality of aging. It is also helpful to understand that the expression of grief can be both emotional and physical.
The intensity and duration of grief is unique for every individual, and every situation. While it can be helpful to think of grief as a process, it is important to realize that too is unique for each person, and each situation.
It may be helpful to know that there are several types of grief. Some types tend to be more relevant to aging than others. In the case of a prolonged or serious illness from which there is no expectation for recovery, individuals close to him/her may experience Anticipatory Grief. In essence, they begin to grieve while the person is still living. The dying may also experience a type of anticipatory grief, and may, in fact, become part of the grief experience of those who remain.
Anticipatory grief if sometimes confused with Ambiguous Grief. In this type of grief, the perspective is that of the survivors(s). It may sometimes be interpreted a “giving up” rather than accepting the fact that the is dying. Examples of ambiguous grief include that of individuals and families who lose a family member in military service considered “missing in action” or “missing and presumed dead.”
Two other types of grief that have particular significance in aging are Cumulative Grief, and Secondary Loss.
Cumulative Grief might be likened to a situation that is often described as “… the straw that broke the camel’s back.” In other words, a grief experience that includes multiple deaths and/or other major losses in a relatively short period of time.
Secondary Losses include those that happen as a result of another loss. Perhaps one of the best examples is losing their ability to drive, a major loss for many older persons. It means they must depend on someone else to take them shopping, to doctors’ appointments, to pick up prescriptions, to get a haircut, to church, to social outings, etc. In general, they lose a great deal of their independence. Another example is the loss of vision. A gradual loss of vision is something experienced by many older adults. If the loss of vision is due to something like Glaucoma, it can be very sudden. Secondary losses could include the inability to continue enjoying a favorite hobby, reading the newspaper, watching television, shopping for groceries, difficulty participating in social activities previously enjoyed, etc. There are many others.
Grief and loss are one of realities of growing old. Failure to recognize this is difficult for the individual as well as the family and the larger community.