Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a debilitating condition that is prevalent among older adults. Estimates are that 2.4% to 6.3% of older adults suffer with GAD. What exactly is GAD? It is characterized by persistent, uncontrollable worry that occurs for at least 6 months. It is often associated with decreased quality of life, cognitive impairment, disability, and increased healthcare utilization. Adding insult to injury, recent evidence has shown that people recovering from COVID-19 show elevated rates of anxiety disorders.
A recent study published in Science Direct, gives us some insight as it found that engaging in moderate-to-intense physical activity for as little as 10 minutes daily five times a week appears to reduce the risk for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in older adults. In fact, among 7,650 participants, mean GAD rates decreased from 18.7% to 16.5%! Among participants with comorbid conditions, those with the highest physical activity had 25% lower odds of GAD than those with the lowest physical activity.
Think about your resident population. When was the last time you reviewed your pharmacy report on anti-psychotic/anti-anxiety medications? How active is your psych consultant, are they only there when a resident has escalating behaviors? What assessment tools are being used to ensure each assessment is accurate? Maybe it is time to look at this study and identify a few residents to trial on an exercise program? They don’t have to train for a marathon but seriously, Part B therapy benefits are often underutilized and if a therapy supported exercise program would decrease anxiety and worry in just one resident, you may eliminate an unnecessary medication. Isn’t it worth a try? Get your team together, develop a PIP, plan-do-study-act, you may be surprised what you find! Stay well and stay informed!