Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Seniors

lemonsObsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which an individual experiences recurring, unwanted thoughts, sensations, or ideas that can cause them to complete compulsions. While OCD is generally considered less common among seniors, several studies suggest that a third peak of OCD onset occurs after the age of 65. OCD onset in seniors can be difficult to diagnose and treat because of the presence of additional health conditions and typical cognitive decline. Nevertheless, it is still important for family caregivers to know the signs of OCD so that they can provide seniors the best possible care and speak with their Primary Care Physician about their concerns.

Compulsions can include repeatedly:

  • checking things
  • rearranging things
  • touching things (especially in a specific order)
  • counting things

While it is natural to have distressing thoughts or repetitive behaviors occasionally, for those with OCD, these thoughts and behaviors can interfere with their daily lives and are very persistent. In addition, refusing to complete their compulsions can cause significant distress. Most people with OCD understand that their obsessions are unrealistic, but they still have a hard time vanishing these obsessive thoughts from their minds or refusing to complete the compulsive actions.

OCD in Seniors
In addition to obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions, OCD in seniors may manifest as having a difficult time throwing things away, which can lead to hoarding.  No matter the way symptoms develop, in most cases, OCD is considered a lifelong condition. More often than not, seniors with OCD have often had this disorder for most of their lives. OCD that develops for the first time in seniors is usually due to the onset of other conditions such as Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. It’s also common for the development of dementia to worsen pre-existing OCD.

Treatment Options for OCD in Seniors

  • Exposure Therapy: The most common treatment for OCD involves exposure-based psychotherapy, which forces individuals to face situations that cause them anxiety or fear. Continued exposure allows them to become desensitized to the situations.
  • Medications: Sometimes antidepressants are prescribed in addition to therapy. Caregivers and Home Health Aides can help ensure that seniors take their medication when needed. Medications become even more helpful as cognitive decline worsens and therapy is no longer as effective.
  • Controlling OCD Symptoms: Caregivers can help seniors control their OCD symptoms by helping them avoid situations that trigger OCD thoughts and compulsions. Redirection and validation are additional tools that in-home assistance can use to help redirect intrusive thoughts and compulsions. These tools become especially useful if the compulsions are related to dementia, and cognitive dementia worsens.
  • Family Therapy: Family members of loved ones with OCD may find that OCD causes problems within their family life. Hence, family therapy is a beneficial tool for working through these problems and spreading awareness about their diagnosis and associated symptoms.

The Benefit of In-Home Assistance for Seniors With OCD
For seniors with OCD, caregivers and home healthcare can be very beneficial in implementing therapist-recommended redirection during an episode. Caregivers, CNAs, and Home Health Aides can also keep medical professionals and families of the seniors informed about any changes or problems.

Allcare Home Health is available to assist with all of your home healthcare needs. Call (919) 301-0236 today for an in-home assessment with one of our experienced RNs.