Nonphysical symptoms (emotional symptoms) can also be helped

Recognising symptoms

Your emotional symptoms might include:
  • Anxiety — which includes feelings of fear that might be intense. Anxiety can also lead to physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath and diarrhoea.
  • Depression — which might result in loss of pleasure or interest in activities, becoming isolated from others, and feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
  • Anger — which might be part of a reaction to having an illness and losing independence. Anger can affect the way you speak to others and the way you act.
If you have emotional symptoms, tell your health care professional because, just like physical symptoms, they can be helped.

Strategies that may help

Sometimes emotional support from others can help. This kind of support can be over the phone, face to face, or even in the form of letters. Sometimes just sitting quietly with another person can provide emotional support. At other times you may wish to express your feelings. Comfort can come from being with, and talking with, other people.

Sometimes treatments, such as counselling or medication, are needed. Discussing strong emotions and feelings with the doctor or health care professional is therefore important.

Advice for carers

It is important to observe and report any emotional symptoms to the nurse or doctor so they can arrange or suggest suitable treatment. Symptoms can be difficult to recognise and often an older person won’t report the symptom themselves.

The following strategies may also be helpful. Consider the ones that you might prefer and discuss these with your health care team. Professional input is often needed to make sure that these strategies have the best results.
  • Reminiscence (reflecting on memories). This can remind you how you coped with problems in the past and help you to cope now; knowing how to cope may reduce anxiety. Reminiscence can also help you to consider what is important to you. For example, you may want get in touch with a friend after a long-standing disagreement.
  • Music therapy (using music in ‘treatment’). Music can be used in combination with relaxation to ease pain, in reminiscence, and for a calming effect.
  • Using computers. Computers can help you keep in touch with friends or access support and information via the internet. For example, the website of Parkinson’s Australia is a great resource for those who have Parkinson’s disease. Using a computer can also be enjoyable and distract you from problems. Family carers or volunteers can help if you have difficulties with typing or using a mouse.
  • Health-promotion programs (such as exercise programs). These programs may help you to manage symptoms; for example, suitable exercise programs may ease depression.
  • Relaxation therapy. This therapy can help to manage anxiety.
  • Mind–body therapies (such as tai chi). These therapies may help to manage stress.
  • Animal-assisted therapy (such as visits from specially trained dogs). Animal visits may help if you are feeling depressed.
  • Changing your environment (such as positioning chairs to face natural, outside views). This strategy may have many benefits, including distraction, which can ease anxiety or anger. Repositioning furniture is best discussed with your health care team because this can affect how care is provided (eg how you can be helped into your chair).