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OCD in Elderly for Caregivers
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

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Caregivers can work toward helping their older family members retain a sense of self-control by remaining calm when “habit” strikes.  When Grandma spends 20 minutes cleaning the sink, she can be asked “What makes you do such a good job?”  This will open the door for her to make her own connection as to why.  The caregiver may learn about the past (“My grandfather was in the military and we had to make sure it was clean and sparkling”).  Or they may learn about a contemporary occurrence (“I heard my son say the place is a mess. I don’t want him to think I’m a burden”).

In either case, an artful question combined with a compliment may draw out information.  It also allows caregivers to begin the process of reassurance which can decrease anxiety.

OCD is designated as an anxiety disorder, and any type of stress reduction technique that is agreeable to the person and caregiver can help tremendously.  Aromatherapy, guided meditation, relaxing music and changes in diet (like reducing caffeine) are alternative methods of stress reduction that may have some impact.

Howard Hughes, famous eccentric billionaire, suffered from OCD.  Those who have seen the movie “The Aviator” or who remember accounts from decades before have an idea of how bizarre this individual became.  While most people live undocumented lives, we can look at the experiences of individuals in public power to relate to.

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (http://www.adaa.org/) has a great deal of information to educate the layperson on anxiety in OCD, as well as other types of anxiety.  Caregivers may find themselves developing a generalized anxiety disorder in response to the OCD disorder for those they are caring for.

Remember that when elders switch locations (moving in with a child, or to assisted living), they are going “out of the box” and stress factors increase.  This increase in stress may turn Mom’s “habit” of cleaning when she is a little nervous into a full blown obsession over time.  Work on the root cause, always.

 


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