For most of us, the holidays are filled with joy, fun, and excitement. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for the seniors in our lives. Depression in the elderly around the holidays is more common than you might think.
Holiday Depression in the Elderly
A variety of different things can contribute to depression in seniors during the holidays. They may be thinking about loved ones that have passed away. They may not be able to participate in holiday traditions due to mobility issues or financial limitations. As holiday traditions change, and the people around seniors during the holidays change, the meaning of the holiday can change as well. All of these can lead to sadness and depression.
It is important to note that depression is different from the holiday blues, which seniors may also experience. We all occasionally experience the blues, which are usually temporary and mild. Depression, on the other hand, is sadness that does not lift. Other signs and symptoms of depression can include:
Loss of interest or pleasure in doing things
Change in weight or appetite
Decreased energy, fatigue, or sleeping all the time
Feeling fidgety or having difficulty sleeping
Depression is a treatable mental illness. If you are concerned your loved one has depression, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. You may need to bring it up several times, as it is difficult for the elderly to talk about their feelings. You can also talk to your healthcare professional about treatment options.
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How to Combat Holiday Depression
One of the best ways to help your elderly loved ones cope with depression around the holidays is to listen to them. Ask them about their memories from past holidays. Go through a photo album or watch home movies with them. Make sure you aren’t doing all the talking. Let them know they are seen and heard.
You can also involve them in holiday activities. Like everything else, this is trickier in the time of Covid, but it can be done. You may not be able to go Christmas shopping together, but you can drive around in the evening and enjoy the Christmas lights. Help them write Christmas cards for their family and friends that they cannot see. Involve them in holiday preparation in the home, like making cookies or hanging ornaments on the tree.
The most important thing is finding a way to be together, even if it isn’t physically together. Phone calls, letters, FaceTime and Zoom can all help make an unusual and challenging holiday a little more cheerful for everyone.