Your Elderly Parent's Health Fears: What's Normal, And How To Help

Do you have a loved one who recently moved into an assisted care living facility? You are facing a lot of stressors in your life right now, and one of them may be watching your parent undergo stress. One of the factors that contribute to the stress of this life season may be your parent's fears about declining health. Here is some information about common health fears the elderly face and tips for helping reduce your parent's anxiety.

Common health fears

In life's later years, health begins to fail. Elderly people have to live with medical issues such as

  • deteriorating eyesight from cataracts or glaucoma

  • restricted range of motion from arthritis

  • Alzheimer's disease

  • incontinence

  • Parkinson's disease

  • hearing loss

Additionally, many elderly people risk broken bones from falling.

It is common for seniors to become preoccupied with symptoms, anxious about any change in their physical condition. They may be fearful of health problems that will likely progress to more profound suffering than they are currently experiencing. They can also obsess about minor, vague complaints such as seemingly insufficient bowel movements, episodes of momentary weakness, or occasional insomnia.

What you can do

The most helpful thing you can do for your parent is to develop a close relationship with his/her primary care provider. Have your loved one sign the necessary paperwork enabling the doctor to speak with you about your parent's health conditions. The physician will be an invaluable source of objectivity for you. You need to know what medical concerns you need to monitor and what are expected signs of aging about which your family member just needs frequent reassurances.

Other suggestions to help alleviate your parent's fears:

  • Sit down with your loved one frequently to discuss current health conditions and offer reassurance of the doctor's active involvement in his/her care. Review current medications and their expected side effects. This will help your parent know that you and the doctor are on top of his/her health concerns.

  • Make a chart listing your parent's medical conditions and current medications (including dosage) for each. Add a separate section for your parent to record troubling symptoms as they occur so that you can track them and report to the doctor if needed. Doing this will help your parent feel his/her concerns are being validated and monitored.

If it seems that your loved one is becoming overly fearful about health issues--for instance, if reassurances from you and visits to the doctor do not allay fears--ask the physician for a referral to counseling. Anxiety can reach a point at which it affects quality of life, and if it reaches that point you need to seek professional intervention.

Objective information from your loved one's physician will help guide you as you deal with your elderly parent's declining health. Keeping your loved one informed and offering factual reassurances will help alleviate needless anxiety. These years are bound to have difficult stretches; do what you can to smooth this one out ahead of you. You may also consider placing your parent in an assisted living facility so they feel constantly watched over and cared for.