It’s not unusual for family caregivers to grow used to their senior relatives talking about their aches and pains. After all, aging is hard on the body and seniors are more likely to develop illnesses, infections and health conditions. However, there is an extreme level of worry that can take hold of a senior person’s mind and create such a level of anxiety, that they may actually be making themselves even more ill. When somatic symptom disorder enters the picture, senior care can become a lot more difficult and the elderly person’s daily activities can be seriously affected.
What is Somatic Symptom Disorder?
Somatic symptom disorder is when someone feels physical symptoms that are not related to any medical cause. They may feel a head or chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath or a stomach ache, but there’s no real cause. Even after an examination by a doctor, the person still feels the symptoms. They convince themselves that they have a serious disease and may even interpret normal feelings, like a headache or constipation, as a sign that they have a severe physical illness.
In no time, these excessive thoughts and behaviors can rise to a level where they interfere with the elderly person’s ability to function normally. They may worry constantly about having some kind of illness and repeatedly checking themselves out for new symptoms. They may visit the doctor several times, but claim that the test missed something or the doctor didn’t catch the disease. More visits don’t relieve them, and instead make them even more concerned. As a result, the stress causes even more physical issues.
How to Help Senior Relatives With Somatic Symptom Disorder
When a senior is unhealthily focused on their physical symptoms and what they mean, it’s important to bring it up with their doctor. Once a doctor’s visit has cleared up any possibility of something serious, family caregivers need to get advice about whether or not anything is really wrong physically. Sometimes, the doctor can convince the elderly person that they are alright, and the stress levels start to go down. The doctor may recommend that because the physical symptoms are most likely being caused by the mind, and a therapist may be an additional and necessary option for treatment. The distress is real and the elderly relative cannot overcome the anxiety they feel on their own.
With a combination of counsel from a physician and a therapist, the senior relative can hopefully develop some methods of coping with their worries and fears about failing health. Family caregivers with the responsibility for their aging relative’s elderly care plan should make arrangements right away so that there can be peace and acceptance instead of distress.