Coping with Anxiety & Paranoia in the Elderly

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All the words in the world can’t really prepare a person for the extreme behaviors of an elderly person who has lost touch with reality. When the mind deteriorates, it can lead to delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. See how to approach the person to limit the physical and mental damage for everyone.

1. Symptoms of Paranoia

One of the biggest warnings to those coping with anxiety and paranoia is to pay attention to the little signs. However, this can be difficult to do in certain situations. Just because a loved one believes their doctor treated them unfairly, doesn’t mean they’re wrong. 

However, if you’ve done your due diligence into the situation and still believe your loved one is coming to the wrong conclusion, it may be a sign. Other symptoms include: 

  • unexplained agitation, 
  • hearing or seeing things that aren’t there, 
  • and believing that others are secretly plotting against them.

The Hidden Dangers of Paranoia in Elderly

Paranoid delusions in the elderly can have a wide range of consequences: 

  • In one scenario, your loved one accuses you of stealing from them before immediately letting it go. 
  • In another, they hear you rustling around in the night and attack because they believe you are an intruder. 

As tempting as it may be to make assumptions about what your loved one would and wouldn’t do, it’s best to remain as objective as possible.

2. Three Things To Do

Here are three actions to take if your loved one is experiencing a delusion:

  1. Stay calm

You don’t have to agree with the person or placate them, but the calmer you are, the more likely it is they’ll respond to your attitude. 

Reassure them that they’re not in danger, and give them a heads up if you need to administer any emergency treatment.


  1. Stay practical

It may only take a simple redirection of a person to help them get over an incident. It could be as simple as pointing out what’s on TV or playing a song that calms them down. 

If they tend to lose track of certain items constantly, purchase duplicates of these items so they can be produced immediately in times of distress.


  1. Write it down

A behavior log is a great way to identify the patterns and triggers of the elderly. It can be used to decipher their behavior or presented to a doctor as proof if the situation is beginning to deteriorate.

3. Two Pieces of Advice

As mentioned, paranoid delusions in the elderly can go from harmless to destructive in a split-second, so it helps to get professional advice sooner rather than later. 

However, no matter what your loved one is going through, remember that everyone, including the person experiencing anxiety and paranoia, notices the difference between love and acceptance as opposed to frustration and aggravation. 

Here are two pieces of advice in such a situation:

1) Even if you think the elderly person isn’t able to understand in the moment, it doesn’t mean they aren’t benefiting from your genuine concern and efforts. As much as you possibly can, face the elder’s behavior with love, acceptance, and reassurance.

2) Remember that you don’t have to cope with these symptoms alone. From family support to professional therapy, you have options to work through the emotions you’re feeling and the practical concerns you’re facing.


If you or a loved one are elderly and dealing with anxiety or paranoia, contact us today and learn more about how GYC Senior Care can help.

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