Q: Since my father died a few months ago, my 82-year-old mother is a bundle of nerves. I try to stop often to see her, but she has never before lived alone and she's having trouble adjusting.
What are her risks?
A: The best person to answer that question would be your mom's doctor. Please encourage her to go in for a full physical.
Research has shown that the risks for seniors living alone can be many from poor nutrition to falls and injuries to depression.
Here's another risk that was recently identified.
The greater the anxiety level, the higher the risk of having a stroke, according to new research published in the American Heart Association Journal stroke.
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And heart disease patients who suffer anxiety have twice the risk of dying. What's worse, heart patients with both anxiety and depression have triple the risk of dying, researchers said, in the Journal of the American Heart Association published earlier this year.
The stroke study is reported to be the first in which researchers linked anxiety and stroke independent of other factors such as depression. Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental health problems. Symptoms include feeling unusually worried, stressed, nervous or tense.
The study found that people in the highest third of anxiety symptoms had a 33 percent higher stroke risk than those with the lowest levels.
"Everyone has some anxiety now and then. But when it's elevated and/or chronic, it may have an effect on your health years down the road," said Maya Lambiase, Ph.D., study author and cardiovascular behavioral medicine researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh.
Ask your mother's doctor to put together a plan for her that could encompass her health and well-being.
She might also benefit from a little extra companionship, particularly during the times when you are unable to be with her.
Why not suggest she check out a senior center? Most communities have these centers that provide both mealtime activities and companionship.
Or consider a non-medical caregiving companion, such as one from Home Instead Senior Care. CAREGiversSM provide companionship at home, transportation to activities, meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication management, errands and shopping.
For more information about the study, visit newsroom.heart.org/news/anxiety-depression-identify-heart-disease-patients-at-increased-risk-of-dying.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or visit www.homeinstead.com.
DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.