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Panic Attacks and the Elderly

panic attacks and the elderlyPanic attacks are disturbing no matter how old you are when you experience them. For your elderly loved ones, they can feel debilitating. The key is to not completely shut down every experience if your loved one finds himself experiencing panic attacks. Tools such as visualization, introducing elderly care services in stages, and remaining calm can all help.

The Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Panic attacks can come on suddenly with seemingly little warning. The person suffering from the attack may start to feel queasy or weak, and have difficulty controlling their trembling; breathing may become difficult, and they may even fear that they’re having a heart attack because of their pounding heart. Some panic attack sufferers describe other symptoms, like a cold sweat or feeling of dread before the physical symptoms begin. Elderly care providers have experience with panic attacks, and they can help your elderly relative to understand what is happening when the symptoms first appear. This can help to calm the situation, particularly if it’s the first panic attack.

Avoiding Causes of a Panic Attack

Some elderly loved ones know what causes them to have a panic attack, such as a new home care provider coming to the house or visiting their doctor. Others may have panic attacks because of situations that they’ve been through successfully before, such as driving to the grocery store. These normal situations may not be avoidable, but some others can. For example, elderly loved ones who panic at the thought of meeting new elder care providers can learn as much as possible about the new person before he or she arrives, possibly even talking to him or her over the phone first. This helps to alleviate the anxiety of the new situation.

Helping a Loved One Through a Panic Attack

Whether it’s your loved one’s first panic attack or simply one of many she’s had, remain calm in the midst of the emotional storm. Help your loved one to sit down or even lie down if it’s possible. Set a breathing pattern that is slow and even to help your elderly loved one to reset her breathing. Talk your loved one through the attack, reminding her where she is or sharing a description of an image that she loves. One example could be a nature walk through the woods. Choose an image together that your loved one finds relaxing. Work with in-home care providers so that they understand what helps your loved one if she experiences a panic attack when you aren’t around.

With patience and love, you can help your elderly loved ones to work through panic attacks without too much lingering strain.

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