In recent weeks, Americans suffered a major blow to their sense of safety when a gunman armed with multiple weapons entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire; leaving 12 dead and 58 others injured. While nearly everyone felt some sense of worry from the incident, highly publicized violent events like this can take a toll on seniors by feeding fears. These fears can be especially burdensome for seniors suffering from dementia, which commonly causes irrational fears or hallucinations that can be increased by news of actual events whether in their own community – or far away.
According to Sharon Shaw Elrod, MSW, in an article published in the Senior Citizen Journal, “fear is a valuable defense mechanism. “ However, Elrod adds that as people age and mobility as well as cognitive abilities are diminished, many seniors begin to feel vulnerable and have an increased fear response to events that younger adults may be better able to comprehend. When major events, like the recent shooting in Colorado, occur, major media coverage combined with a sense of vulnerability amongst seniors can cause increased fear of everyday activities as simple as going to the doctor or grocery store.
Taking Steps to Calm Fears
Caregivers in a senior’s life, including family members and home care providers, can have a major impact on the fears of seniors based on their response. Here are a few tips to best respond to the worries of a senior citizen:
1. Acknowledge the fear & offer support:
Caregivers should let seniors know that they understand their worry. The idea of a shooting massacre is indeed scary. However, caregivers can also reassure seniors that they are there to help keep them safe and that they are available to talk about any concerns the elderly individual may have. Sometimes a listening ear can help seniors define what level of fear is rational; for instance, talk about how many people go out and about each day and how rare events like those that transpired in Colorado are. A note in a home care software or home care system can help caregivers be prepared for any fears that may have been stirred in a senior from a recent event.
2. Monitor information coming into the home:
Media can often breed fear, especially for seniors who have impaired cognitive ability. By turning off news coverage of tragic events, seniors who dwell on their fears may be less likely to focus on the worry spurred by a widely publicized event. Home care software or a home care system, like ClearCare, can be used to remind caregivers to turn off the TV and get seniors out for a walk or involved in other activities that relieve stress and take their mind off of irrational fears.
3. Stick to responses that work:
Caregivers may find that certain responses better ease the fear of seniors than others. Some individuals may be comforted by the reminder that the shooting event was a long way from where they live, while others will like to hear that their home is safe. When caregivers find a response that works, repeat that sentiment often when the fear comes forward. A note in home care software or a home care system, such as ClearCare, can make information on fear management tools readily available from family caregivers to in-home aides.
Events that shake individuals of all ages can be especially worrisome for seniors. However, being prepared to address these fears and having some understanding of their root cause can help. Being prepared to manage fear as a team with your home care provider, and technology such as home care software or a home care system, can help seniors feel safe yet again.