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Anxiety in Nursing Home Residents

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A systematic review conducted by the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry concluded that older adults living in long-term care facilities are at a higher risk of anxiety disorders than adults living in the community at large. It was estimated that anywhere from 3.2 percent to 20 percent of individuals in long-term care settings suffer from anxiety, compared with 1.4 percent to 17 percent living in the general community.

If you currently have a loved one living in a nursing home or other skilled facility, these statistics can be alarming. Fortunately, there are effective medications on the market that, when combined with therapy or other psychological support, can have profound effects for those suffering.

In order to treat anxiety, it is first necessary to identify the symptoms. Recognizing anxiety in older adults at times can be difficult, as some symptoms, such as avoidance, may be misconstrued as declining health or limited mobility. Other health complications, such as memory loss or an inability to speak clearly, may make it difficult for individuals to verbalize symptoms. However, knowing what to look for can help.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Nursing Home Residents

According to Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Being in a state of nervousness, restlessness or tension
  • Sensing impending danger, panic or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating, trembling and feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or ruminating over fears
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Inability to control worry or fear
  • Avoiding things that may contribute to anxiety

In fact, the Geriatric Anxiety Inventory (GAI) was designed specifically to help identify anxiety symptoms and measure the degree of anxiety in older adults. If any of the above symptoms mimic a loved one’s behavior, asking a clinician to complete an assessment will help get your loved one on track for symptom management and relief.

What Can Cause Anxiety in Nursing Home Residents?

  • Illness: In some cases, anxiety is a side effect of a medical condition. Heart disease, diabetes, respiratory problems and chronic pain are all ailments that can induce or prolong anxiety.
  • Pain: Experiencing chronic or intense pain not only causes extreme discomfort, but if not properly managed, it can lead to a fear of carrying out daily tasks, such as bathing, grooming and getting dressed. Nursing homes are responsible for providing the correct dosages of medication to minimize pain and facilitate easier daily living.
  • Trauma: One-time traumatic events, such as a serious fall or a sexual assault, can contribute to increasing anxiety in older adults. This is even more so the case when a traumatic event takes place more than once. Oftentimes, many elderly residents already have concerns about falling. Nursing homes are in charge of noting fall risks and taking necessary precautions, as well as protecting the patient from any type of abuse, including sexual abuse, from staff caregivers and aides.
  • Abuse and Neglect: Abuse and neglect are sadly culprits of initiating or worsening anxiety in long-term care facility residents. Financial abuse, emotional or verbal abuse, physical abuse, neglectful hygiene practices, malnutrition and dehydration are all forms of neglect and abuse that can severely worsen a resident’s state of mind. It can become especially frightening for a resident to report an abusive or neglectful caregiver for fear of retaliation or even worse treatment. Nursing homes are responsible for properly caring for residents, providing for their needs and offering quality care in later life.

At times, anxiety can point to underlying abuse and neglect, unmanaged pain or trauma. If you have noticed a change in your loved one’s behavior, it is well worth looking into. Nursing homes have the great responsibility of properly caring for and maintaining your loved one’s health.

For years, we have been helping people pursue justice and address nursing home abuse and neglect, and we would be happy to do the same for you. If you or someone you know has been mistreated in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, please contact us for a free, confidential consultation at (901) 322-4232.