Together, Caring for the Elderly

Homebound clients have wanted to discuss their anxiety and fears related to the news, particularly the elections and worldwide terror attacks.

Written by Amy Neu, MSW, LCSW

A large part of my practice with older adults involves making home visits for my clients who are homebound, elderly, and relatively isolated in their communities.  I love visiting them in their home environment; I am able to walk into their world and quickly gauge how they are feeling and functioning.  Over the past few months I have been noticing that my homebound clients have wanted to discuss their anxiety and fears related to the news, particularly the elections and worldwide terror attacks, as soon as I walk in the door.  After several minutes of talking about the news and exploring and expressing their emotions, then they are ready to focus on their lives and therapy. However, throughout the session, the topic of news and their uncertainties of the future will often surface again.

I consulted with my colleagues that also conduct home visits, and they reported similar experiences with their homebound clients.  It seems, in fact, that many Americans are concerned, anxious, or afraid of all that is happening in our political system and around the world.  Dr. Mary Fitzgibbons writes about this phenomenon and how our constant connection is increasing parents’ anxiety and affecting their children in her article in this newsletter.  However, our homebound clients face the additional disadvantages of isolation and physical or mental debility, which can further feed into their anxiety for several reasons.  First, there is often less environmental stimulation at home for them to redirect their energy onto something positive.  Next, many homebound clients already struggle with feelings of loss of control and safety at baseline.  They find themselves in a position where they are unable to fully rely on themselves to meet their needs.  As they watch the daily turbulence unfold on television, one of their few windows to the outside world, this can further undermine their sense of safety and security, ultimately feeding their anxiety.  Additionally, most individuals who are homebound do not have the same access to talk with other people about the news, their fears, or the impact the news is having on them.  Without an outlet to discuss and process their emotions, it becomes increasingly difficult for many homebound adults to break their cycle of anxiety alone.

Despite these obstacles to overcome, there are strategies for homebound adults to alleviate their anxiety triggered by negative news. The first tactic is to create, implement, and keep a daily routine.  A consistent routine has numerous benefits for older and homebound adults.  A basic routine creates structure, fosters a sense of control and security, and ensures that the individual’s needs are being met on a regular basis.  Sample schedules for older adults are readily available online and can help caregivers facilitate conversations with their loved ones about their daily needs and routines.

A second tactic is for homebound adults to take breaks away from the television.  These breaks can be built into their daily routine or can be taken as needed.  It is important for them to disconnect and focus their attention onto something that may reduce tension, foster feelings of self-reliance, and give the brain a break from the stimulation and negativity of the news.  This time can be used for any number of activities depending on abilities and interests.  Common examples include making a phone call to a loved one, listening to music or a book on tape, tending to a pet or houseplant, reading, or completing self-care tasks or activities of daily living.

If turning off the television entirely is a struggle, a third tactic is to simply change the channel when becoming overwhelmed or feeling stressed out by the news.  With so many channels to choose from and the option for many of us to record programs, changing the channel to a light-hearted show can alleviate some of the anxiety that homebound adults experience while watching the 24-hour news cycle.  The drawback to this option, however, is that it does not give the brain a chance to disconnect from the stimulation of the television or provide the individual with the time to engage in a potential meaningful activity.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, stress, or depression please feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment with a clinical social worker or counselor.  Our staff has experience working with individuals throughout the lifespan both in our office and in the community.  We look forward to the opportunity to help you and your family.

This article is one in a series of monthly articles from West County Psychological Associates for seniors, their family members and caregivers. If you would like more information about our services, feel free to contact our office at (314) 275-8599.

Amy Neu, MSW, LCSW

Amy NeuNeu provides private therapy for adults, families and seniors.  She has significant experience counseling seniors, caregivers and families within medical systems and during transitional periods from home to alternate levels of care.

 

West County Psychological Associates
Phone:  314-275-8599
Email:  wpca@sbcglobal.net

 

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