What exactly is anxiety and where does it stem from?

According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety by definition is “an intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur.”
To begin, I want to clarify that having periodic feelings of being anxious and being clinically diagnosed with anxiety, a mental illness disorder, are not the same.
Although they both may leave you with feelings of worry and fear, the intensity and frequency of an anxiety disorder versus feelings of being anxious are very different.
Regardless, at this time feelings of being anxious are at all-time high throughout the community as we are battling COVID-19.
Personally, I feel like anxious feelings stem from fear. Those feelings of fear often stem from the idea of not knowing an outcome of a situation or not having control over something. Anxious thoughts will often bring you to a dark, negative place if you let your mind take you there.

Why do you feel like this is common to happen with residents in nursing homes?

Personally, having worked in the nursing home as a Social Services Director, I feel like anxious feelings are so common in the residents due to thinking they do not have control over a situation and going into an unknown territory.
Often our residents when they admit to our facility, they believe they are no longer are able to have control over their everyday tasks or their current situation. What I mean by that is in this time in their lives they often need additional assistance with daily living that they used to be able to do independently at home. They often are also accustomed to living a certain way at home and the unknown of what their new living situation may be like can be a scary thought.
Although they may think they no longer have control over their lives we often remind them that they do, we are just there to assist. We encourage and lift them up reminding them of things they are still able to do independently. They often have feelings as if they lost their independence, therefore we like to remind them that they still are able to do many things independently! Residents still ultimately have the decision and control over their everyday tasks, we are just there to help in their new home😊
We as a nursing home facility are very familiar with these emotions that the new admits may feel and we take every step possible to help comfort them and answer any questions they may have in their new transition. Prior to admission we often show the patient pictures from a pamphlet of what their rooms will look like and what we will be able to assist them with that they may be having difficulty doing. Sometimes it’s as simple as reassuring them that someone will be there to assist them with getting dressed for the day, or waking them up for therapy in the morning. I’ve personally encountered situations where their anxious thoughts kept them up all night long worrying about these things! Our job is to put their worries to rest.
We listen to their goals, their concerns, and their fears. Once again, your mind will take you to dark, negative places if you let it and having someone there to remind you of all the positive things and goals ahead is so vitally important in this vulnerable time for them.
The transition to the nursing home whether it be for short term skilled therapy or long-term care can be very overwhelming for residents and we take every effort to assure them that we will be with them every step of the way.

Do you think it has a lot to do with how this new chapter in their life begins?

I.e. feelings of anger, forced to go by family, loss of a significant other, health deteriorating, etc.
It is extremely important how this new chapter in their life begins and that is why we take every effort along the way to make it as positive and pleasant as possible. Our motto is “Continue your life with us.” I feel like the idea/concept of nursing homes and practices from long ago leave the elderly in the population today with a “bad taste.” Our job is to educate them that nursing homes are not what they used to be. We put much effort into daily activities with residents, social outings, opportunities to meeting new friends, and giving them the quality of life they want and deserve.
I would say their situation prior to admission certainly contributes to their anxious thoughts. Every situation for a new admit is truly different.
Sometimes they do feel angry, in which we do not take personally. We try to dig down to the root to understand where the anger comes from. Often, from my experience, it comes from them no longer being able to do certain things independently. A lot of times they have the opportunity to do skilled therapy and we turn that anger into motivation to get stronger.
Sometimes we do have residents who are widowed. From my experience, the most effective way to cope with this grievance is by remembering their loved one. Taking the time to talk about how special they were to them, asking to hear about happy memories they had with them. I love hearing their happy memories and watching the residents light up telling them. Acknowledging that loved one they lost and talking about them is so important. That loved one was very likely the most important person in the world to them and they are now no longer with them on this earth.
At that time, if the resident confirms they are a Christian and are comfortable with prayers we often turn to God and pray. Reminding the resident that their loves ones are with them in spirit in heaven often brings comfort and peace. I am very proud to say that I work for a Christian company that starts the day in prayer welcoming God into our facilities.
Family certainly plays a huge role in the equation. Sometimes we are blessed to have wonderful families involved in residents care, other times they may not have any family involvement. It is a difficult decision to transition residents to the nursing facilities often leaving families with feelings of guilt. I like to remind families with feelings of guilt that it is nearly impossible for them to do what a nursing home can do, especially working a full-time job. They are one person trying to provide care that takes an entire staff to execute effectively. Between Dietary, Housekeeping, Laundry, Nursing, Care Assistants, Therapy, Activities, Transportation, Doctor’s appointments and many other services it truly takes an army.
For the residents who do not have family involvement I often see feeling of relief and peace upon admit. They are happy to not have to continue to battle daily living activities that they were no longer able to do. We keep a closer eye on those residents to ensure they know that not only do they not have a new home, but a very large family that will love and care for them at Camelot.

What are ways that residents can do to help themselves combat anxiety?

When you have anxiety or anxious thoughts it’s so important to keep your mind busy. It’s SO important to redirect yourself from negative, unrealistic thoughts when they start rolling in. Sometimes you just have to tell yourselves that were NOT doing this today and those negative thoughts can take a hike😉 Once again, your mind will take you to dark, negative places if you let it. Residents that understand self-help techniques often know what works for them. Sometimes they like to work on crossword puzzles/word searches, make a phone call to family to chat, or visit outside with others in the courtyard. These are just a few examples.

And what does Camelot do to help residents combat anxiety? (if the two answers are different)

First, it’s important to create an environment to where residents know they can come to you to express their worries and anxious feelings. Trust is everything in a relationship.
From my experience Camelot does a great job at acknowledging and listening to these anxious feelings. It’s so important to talk about these feelings and acknowledge them before they become bigger issues, such as becoming depressed and having feelings of hopelessness.
Often when a resident presents me with an overwhelming problem, we find deep breathing exercises helpful. This helps release tension in the chest. You know, when you feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest and just won’t get up? Deep breathing exercises are a must. We practice these together so they don’t feel so alone in it all. Plus let’s be honest we all could use some deep breathing at times!
Aromatherapy. Everyone knows I love to practice aromatherapy. We all can joke about “that essential oil lady” but you can’t tell me walking into a room that smells like lavender and eucalyptus mint doesn’t make you feel good! All jokes aside, aromatherapy is a great therapeutic practice to help cope with anxious feelings. We often like to utilize the essential oil diffuser in our secure memory unit as well. The soothing white noise, colors, and pleasant essential oil smell helps our residents relax. Soothing music is another great tool we often use to help resident. Whether that be calming, peaceful music or fun dancing music to keep their mind off of things. One of my favorite memories is the residents dancing in the common areas to music from their past times. I love seeing the Nursing staff get involved and take the residents by the hand to dance along. Their smiles are priceless.
Anxiety can often leave you feeling alone and helpless. By working as not only a team, but a family, we will get through this, together. Always remember to help and love each other.
“We seek to glorify God in everything we do.”
Kyla Louviere
Community Relations Coordinator
Camelot Senior Living