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Mental Health

Managing Stress/Anxiety in the Elderly

11/30/2006

Question:

My mother is 77 years old and is getting depressed and anxious over impending surgery. She is under a great deal of stress. I don't consider this unusual because this is the 3rd surgery she has had for this problem - but, I was wondering is there anyway to help her along with her stress, anxiety and depression. When she gets stressed out, anxious and depressed, she gets angry and she can`t make up her mind or remember things having to do with her health. This is hard to handle when she has to make decisions concerning impending surgery.

Answer:

Stress and Anxiety, and especially depression are serious and common problems in the elderly. As you mention, feeling stressed, concerned or anxious about an upcoming surgery may be very normal responses. However, if the stress and anxiety, and especially depression, are interfering with your mother`s ability to function, to enjoy life or to partake in her normal activities, then it is worrisome and should be addressed.

Here are a couple of websites that might help you:

I would recommend you and your mother talk first to your primary care physician. That person can perform some simple tests and ask questions to determine if a serious depression is present - if it is, medication and counseling may be indicated. In older people, depression may be associated with memory loss, forgetfulness, anxiety and worry. So it is important to be screened and evaluated for depression.

Mental health care professionals are also available to help your mother. Either your physician can refer you, or your local council on aging may also have some recommendations. Good luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati