Calming Fear when Seniors Hear Bad News

Dear Francy; My Aunt is in her late 70’s and her husband has recently died. She is so fearful, of the house, the news, her money, her health, being alone. I am finding it quite a challenge to be around her- she is so negative about her life and the fear is just eating her up. Ideas?

Yes, I know you are not living with her, but a daily call pattern could help her a great deal. If you lived with her you would set the tone for the day when you walked in the door to greet her each morning, instead do it with your phone calls. This is never an easy thing to do because it requires you to be strong and not fall into her pool of depression and fear. You simply make a plan before you call her each day. Call around 10ish your time, when you can take a five minute break from your daily job or life pattern. Have in mind what to say.

If mother was still with us, I would be concerned about all the repeated news about the Swine Flu. Mother lost relatives and her sister was sick with the Spanish Flu after the First World War, so this news would have chilled her to the bone. Being upbeat, informing but refocusing her onto other ideas, days events etc is the key.

As you walk into a care area, you always take a moment for a quick deep breath. That brings oxygen to your brain and pulls the focus into the now. It allows you to remove the thoughts you have had with other patients, family or personal thing before this moment in time. The same goes on the phone, just before you pick up that receiver you take a quick deep breath and there you are, stronger and ready for action.

Have in mind the day at hand. Here we are at the end of April, so we start to think May. May 1st was always May Day and daisy chains and May Day baskets; Mother’s Day coming up and spring time. It’s horse races at the Derby, it’s Opening Day for Boating here in the Puget Sound. There are lots to talk about and lots of ideas to share with your senior at this time of year- that can divert them away from the constant worry about bad news.

Smiling goes a long way with care for seniors, even if it’s on the phone-people “feel” smiles. You’ll be very surprised at the tone of your voice when you smile, compared to when you don’t. You can begin by using your everyday cheery voice as you plow through the verbal garbage that might be thrown your way.

You say; “Good morning hope today is finding you well. How are you feeling today?” – Keep them on course, if they say that the flu has been on the news and people are dying, no problem- you stay calm. ” I know, I have been following that information. I am very sorry so many people are worried over it. Luckily we are safe here, I have gone over all of the surfaces with cleaner and that makes it safe for us today. But how are you feeling, have you had your breakfast and morning pills?”

Address the positive not the negative. Do a chore in the room, or ask them more personal health questions on the phone. Let them vent if you wish, but let them vent for a limited time. Then turn yourself back on again. “It is almost May Day…I remember filling up baskets of flowers and then sneaking around the neighborhood and making deliveries to neighbors, ringing the bell and running away so they only found the basket on the front porch when they came to the door. That was so much fun, did you ever do that?”

Encourage the TV to be turned onto a channel that is fitting for their days viewing; food, PBS, game shows. Or get them involved with a task for the day, bring them laundry to fold, or take them outside for a short walk or sunshine. Come up with a few ideas and ask them which they are going to do. Taking their mind off the fear and onto a task, chore, or new thought pattern should be the plan.

If they are fearful of living alone, then get a good alarm system for them. Or add a lifeline or cell phone service so they can call for help at any time. After a six month wait, suggest a new home to be around others of the same age that will keep them going and happy. If they have had years of caring for a spouse, suggest a transition to helping others in a local charity situation. Volunteering at a pet shelter, or food bank – keep your mind creative and see what suggestions hits the mark. You may have to take them to a senior center for the first time, but they will learn to have new friends and start to “refocus” on friends and activities.

Money is money, you cannot make it go away…so making sure they have a good firm grip on their money – you can introduce them to a 3rd party person that could explain investments, income, bills and help make plans to cut the budget down. If the house has to be sold to give a better life without stress, then that thought pattern has to be planted and let it grow over time. Time to think things through is so important when you are dealing with anyone of maturity.

I always make sure I give attention to fears. “I’m sorry you feel so worried over that, but let’s work together to think of ways to make it easier for you.” That way they know you are listening to them, but just not falling into the fear pool with them. Asking professionals to come in and give advice is so helpful. A good family counselor can help with grief or a free grief support group can do the same thing. A few classes in changing insurance companies for car and health at the senior center will inform them of how costs can be cut and still have good coverage. There are always ways of handling fear.

*Bringing the fear out in the open to discuss but not give it power.

*You can bring in ideas to divert their thoughts of fear with ideas of current events and friends that can bring them companionship.

*You will be able to bring thinking and patience into play for them.


That’s why senior, family and spouse care givers are so valuable- they can change an ordinary life into a life of quality. I thank you for all you do for your senior. It can be a hard road and very lonely. Please do go to my website at and click on the daily blog called Dear Francy for more tips, I have a click for on demand radio show that I do each week, and my special free service called Loving Memories serving you and your family to help find just the right care facility for your senior when those needs are required. If you are just starting to give care I have written a how to called Care Giving 101 Workbook that can really give you a lot of ideas of how to give care. I am also on Twitter @seniorcaretips

Thank you, francy

2 thoughts on “Calming Fear when Seniors Hear Bad News

  1. Terrific article. All of your tips are thoughtful and emphasize the power of positivity. Starting with care and managing the message goes a long way. Thanks again!

  2. Thank you for your kind words on my blog page…I appreciate it. Creative thinking goes a long way when you give care…francy

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