According to studies, anxiety increases as people age. With drastic life changes, health problems and stresses from experiences, older adults tend to worry more. In most instances though, caregivers find themselves nursing not just everyday anxieties but irrational fears as well.

You’ve probably observed this yourself with your aging parents telling you that there’s a “shadow” following them when evening sets in. At the first few times, you feel compelled to remind them that they’re not real. But as it happens constantly, it can get frustrating to the point of feeling the urge to lose temper. Before that happens, follow these strategies in dealing with your loved ones’ fears.

Consider if there’s an underlying health problem.

Most seniors experiencing this often have dementia that’s still not diagnosed or at its early stages. Dementia causes the elderly to have out-of-control anxieties and strange beliefs due to declining brain functions. In some instances, dementia also causes visual hallucinations. This symptom is one of the early signs of a type of cognitive impairment called Lewy-body dementia.

Get your parents checked. An accurate diagnosis would help in managing the disease better. Another thing you should consider here is medications. Experts who provide senior home health care services in Philadelphia share that some drugs may alter one’s thinking as well, so you might want to revisit with their doctor the medicines your loved ones are taking and see if you could adjust dosages or go for alternatives.

Check the environment.

Along with a disease, there might also be a trigger in the environment itself that disorients the perception of your parents. That “shadow” may be the flowy curtain being blown by the outdoor air or the shifting silhouettes of leaves in your yard when the sun is setting. If this is the case, then perhaps, installing better lighting at home would help or swapping your curtains for other window treatments, like shutters, would avoid flowy materials, while easily limiting their vision of the outdoors.

a senior couple

This is what most caregivers do when their patient suffers from sundowning. Rather than arguing with them on reality or what an object is, consider their perception instead or what they think an object is. From there, you could adjust your environment, prevent misperceptions, and hopefully reduce the likelihood of them complaining about such things.

Console your loved ones.

At its core, your loved ones keep on telling you about irrational things because they need reassurance. They want to feel safe and secure, as they experience the effects of aging and health problems that come with it.

So, aside from seeing things from their perspective to avoid fights, get to the root of their emotional issue. Do they need a companion when evening comes? Do they need someone to listen to their fears? Tell them directly that they’re safe and you’re there to keep them from harm. Don’t forget to communicate non-verbally, too. A hug or a pat at the back is enough to give them a sense of reassurance.

The primary principle in dealing with your aging parents’ irrational fears is to stretch your empathy. Put yourself in their shoes as they suffer from body and cognitive decline. That should be enough to love them unconditionally.