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She is medicated, but still struggles. I am having trouble finding the tolerance of this mental illness I need to help her through these anxiety attacks. She is pretty much always anxious, but when she faces a change or a family member is having a problem, she loses any coping methods she may have. I need help for my sanity and to deal with her lovingly.

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Anxiety is like a watchdog. It's great to have a watchdog -- the watchdog alerts you to danger, and that's extremely useful. We wouldn't survive without mechanisms that alerted us to danger. Now, we've all known dogs who bark only at strangers, and we've also known dogs who bark at strangers... and friends and chipmunks and when it rains. It's annoying to live with the latter kind, but trying to shush the dog doesn't work particularly well, does it! That dog is deeply dedicated to what it think its job is. You have to take the attitude, "Thanks, Rover. It's so good to have you on my side. Now, I'm in charge here [I'm the alpha!] and I've taken note of the danger you've identified -- yes, it's raining -- and we're fine. Come sit by me." If you shout at the dog or otherwise get upset about the barking, the message the dog gets is that there really IS something to freak out about. He doesn't understand that you're upset about his barking; he thinks you're upset about the rain, too. Do you get my analogy? Your mom's anxiety is her Inner Watchdog. If she's been anxious all her life, she's never understood how to deal with it. You may or may not teach her how now, but you certainly can have that perspective yourself.
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My care recipients (husband and mother) did/do not seem to suffer from generalized anxiety. My experience with it is personal and from interacting with another relative who experiences this.

Drugs are good. It can be difficult to find the right one or combination of ones. After several experiences with amateurs, I would never, ever allow anyone but a psychiatrist to prescribe such drugs for me. Internists and GPs are often willing to write scripts. See a specialist!

Training is good. Knowing how to recognize the anxiety and learning some techniques to deal with it when it arises is very important. I'm not sure that all elders, especially those with dementia, could master this, but if it is possible, it is great.

Having other people who are sympathetic and understanding but who don't buy into the doomsday scenario is also very useful. Caregivers can often be that person.

Having meaningful things to do, avoiding boredom, focusing on the positive are all helpful and useful. But if you have a chemical imbalance that predisposes you to anxiety, that may not be enough. I know.
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Taking Mom to a thrift store like Goodwill, Savers, or her favorite, a dress shop, even at 93, is like her having a pleasant drug. She is most like her younger self in a such stores. She walks down the aisles swiftly with enthusiasm, so fast, I can't keep up with her. Having the bars of a shopping cart help her feel confident about not falling. She refuses to ever consider a cane, of course.

If you can keep them entertained, not bored, and busy with something positive, it sure helps them stay peaceful and content as possible.
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I suffer from bouts of anxiety and feel depressed a lot from being a caregiver. I've been with my mother most of my life because of epilepsy. We even worked together because I have epilepsy and no one wanted to give me jobs or keep me. We both were hairdressers and Mom bought me a shop. I was in the public lots. It had to close because more money was going out than coming in. My husband died after that and I have no children to have a family of my own. No one to teach me technology, etc. She had her dream home built and it became my nightmare. It is out in the country with very few neighbors and mostly the elderly as well as churches around. I was 49 when my husband died. I am now 58. I have had to take care of her myself. Very little help from brother or sister. My mother wants only me.I am on disability and can not work an longer. I very seldom can get out.I was very well known when working at shop. Her house is huge and so is the yard. Everyday is the same, work and looking after her. I love her but she is always wanting to know where I am and what I am doing. She says things like maybe you will find someone and get married again. How can I find someone when I can't get out to meet someone? I try my best to keep my sanity but I'm constantly "thinking" about my situation and trying to find a way out of it. When I sleep I dream a lot of my past and when I wake up, I'm back to reality. Does anyone else have a similar situation? If so, I would like to hear from them. Also, if anyone has some suggestions, I would like to hear them as well. Thanks for listening to me.
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Cut out the caffeine and limit the sugar intake. Just for starters.
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Oh, each situation is so different! You'll know which approach works best with your mother. In our situation, however, we were getting nowhere with PRN Xanax and constant (and increasingly skillful) reassurances for each anxiety episode -- and these could be triggered by what seemed to us to be the smallest things, like a dream or burning a slice of toast. What finally made our mother forget to be anxious is that she made some good friends in her housing area: friends who so filled her days with laughter and comradeship that truly, in my totally non-medical and non-professional analysis of what happened, there just wasn't any room for her negative thoughts.

So is it helpful to think along these lines? Is it possible to add something really positive to her daily routine, to immunize her against future anxiety episodes? I remember that it also really helped us before to read Robert Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, in which he explains how chemically our resistance to stress can be destroyed as we age. Good luck!
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In February 2012, when my then 92-year-old Mom suffered a back injury and I needed to get out, Mom was often scared and felt isolated. Our family support lives out of state, so I often kept in touch with them as to what to do. I then contacted her doctor and obtained anxiety and sleep medication to help Mom relax, and I told her not to be frightened as I would not go very far away and leave her "abandoned". She is bipolar and so requires very strong medication to help her sleep at night. Last year, her doctor went on to another type of practice, so a new doctor was assigned. We tried her on 50 mgs of Trazadone, a not addiction type of drug, but it was not strong enough to help Mom! So, we stopped that drug for Mom and used a stronger drug but required medical supervision every 30 days. By comparison, I cannot take even half the dose from my own Trazadone prescription, the same type as hers; the effects are so strong for me that I cannot drive the next day! Last year, my family moved Mom out of CA for assisted living because she requires more medical help, a private room and more social attention I was no longer able to provide. With a social worker coming in at least once per month, Mom seems to be better adjusted. With stronger medications, she also sleeps most of the time. Well at this point, Mom is now on hospice level care monitoring.
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My mom has been an anxious person most of her life, probably depressed as well. As she aged, she became filled with dread at the "what ifs"...floods, scams, fires, etc. I started by not ever telling her a story that didn't have a happy ending--no reporting my own medical issues, fact that grandson was born with a small hole in his heart, my husband's ongoing heart issues. Didn't help that much. Regular doctor prescribed Xanax, which didn't really do much good. finally, when she went to live in Independent Living, we got a geriatric psychiatrist on board, and another when she went to NH. They were able to figure out, through regular visits and discussions, what was working and what was not. she's now on two antidepressents and a pediatric dose of klonoopin. I must strongly disagree with the poster who says that these meds alter emotions. they do not. I WILL NOT prevent my mom from watching Fox news if that's what she wants to watch. The meds give her a balanced way of approaching the terrible things that are going on in the world without the dread that she used to experience.
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When we have anxiety, we naturally are fear focused. The fear is triggered by what we hear or see. Next- I don't know you and I'm saying this with love... no disrespect. At age 85, she needs a break. Fear/anxiety is exhausting. At age 85 she has experienced a lot, her stuff and other peoples stuff. At age 85, she deserves some peace:) Keep the drama away from her. Involve her in a project that she could enjoy. Keep her mind occupied on small simple projects. Some people, when they reach a certain age think they have nothing more to offer to themselves or their family. They feel hopeless, that feel they have nothing to contribute, that they have to depend on others. This scares them. They are facing something they can't control- their aging. Can she fold wash? Can she help prepare a meal? Can she sit outside and plant flowers in a pot? What ever she does, praise her by saying thank you. Hug her. When people contribute to something, they feel good. There is no fear.
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As soon as the meds start it is a vicious cycle that is hard to determine what is really going on. Not a big fan. The meds alter the true emotion and it is hard to deal with the true emotion if it is being altercated or suppressed by meds. Reassurance of safety and security are usually ways to start to respond and validating their anxiety in some way (it is real to them regardless) and then a redirection to a known "like" such as activity, favorite food, tv show, etc. Obvious things are shut the news off and keep a positive environment. Each person is so different, but it is a methodical approach that is complicated by the administering of meds that react differently within all elderly.
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If I would say to my mother when she is having a tantrum or anxiety attack, "Mom, your mind is playing tricks on you" or anything that suggests she is not normal she'd only rage more at me more and hyperventilate. Reacting in a stoic way is the best I can do in coping. I suggested drugs to her doctor and he ignored me. So I guess my mother will go whatever way she wants to and my role is do nothing?
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Agree with maggie and harpcat but being married to someone with mental illness i believe the only effective management is by seeing a good psychiatrist. Mom's regular Dr may be good and compassionate but this is not his area of expertise.
You may recieve good advice here but you will get better and quicker results if you do not go by the trial and error method. What works out side the medications area are certainly worthwhile suggestions.
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My dad has this as well. We finally got him on Zoloft which really helped a lot. It doesn't make him feel woozy the way Xanax could. I would suggest you go to see her doctor and have him or her work with getting a medication that will help her symptoms. Remember that if a benzodiazepine is prescribed they can be a reason for falls if the dose is too high. An antidepressant like Zoloft that also works on anxiety is not as much of an issue. But the dose needs to be scaled up or down as needed. Also an antidepressant takes several weeks to be effective so a benzo or something like Buspirone can be given to tide them over. Lots of options. I know some people are anti medication but I say this med has been a God Send for both my dad and me! Good luck
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I have some luck with mom, when she gets afraid, of re-assuring her gently, then saying: "Mom, your brain is playing tricks on you. You know I'd never let anything happen to you. I've got this!" That almost always brings a long pause and a smile. Or -- an "Oh, ****!" Ha!

As to family problems, try to shield her from that to AVOID her anxiety. If you can't? Try something like, "Oh, mom, we're just gossiping. Everything's going to be fine!"

I'd also suggest you speak with your doctor to see if her meds need increasing, It's not an exact science. Lots of trial and error goes on.
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