In a previous blog, we touched on the issue of Relocation stress syndrome (RSS) (also known as “transfer trauma”). There we gave you tips on assisting your senior should you find they have this. In this blog, we will tell of some of the common fears that give rise to moving anxiety.
“Until recently, doctors believed that anxiety disorders declined with age. That’s because older patients are less likely to report psychiatric symptoms and more likely to emphasize their physical complaints.” This is not to say that all seniors will experience moving anxiety. However, because many do, here is some helpful information for that situation, should it arise. The key to helping someone in this position is encouragement and support.
We all have anxiety from time to time. In fact, anxiety is a coping mechanism for stress. But when is anxiety a disorder?
“An anxiety disorder causes feelings of fear, worry, apprehension, or dread that are excessive or disproportional to the problems or situations that are feared. The fact is severe anxiety or a panic attack [can cause] chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea.” The key word above is “disproportional.”
We specifically want to address anxiety when moving into an assisted living facility.
Some common fears that arise in seniors when anticipating moving into an assisted living facility can include:
Feelings of abandonment.
Frustration surrounding a perceived loss of independence.
Having to adjust to a new routine. For example, seniors who like to eat a late dinner may not appreciate living in a community where dinner service ends at 7 p.m.
Resentment about having to live with those who are more disabled or frail than themselves.
The need to significantly downsize, often from a home to a more moderately sized apartment.”
One specific type of anxiety that might surface when moving into a group situation such as an assisted living facility would be Social Phobia. Perhaps your senior suffers from a social phobia and the fear of moving into a place where others live instead of living in the privacy of their own home is an issue.
You can assist this situation by “[a]dopt[ing] stress management techniques, meditation, prayer, and deep breathing from the lower abdomen.”
Of course, do not rule out getting professional help should your senior have an excessive problem with anxiety.
“When talking with an older adult who has an anxiety problem:
Be calm and reassuring
Acknowledge their fears but do not play along with them
Be supportive without supporting their anxiety
Encourage them to engage in social activities
Offer assistance in getting them help from a physician or mental health professional”