Seniors and the Holidays: Tips to Tackle Sadness and Depression
In spite of its reputation for being viewed as the season of joy, the combination of seniors and the holidays can lead to profound feelings of unhappiness for many older adults. Yearning for holidays past, despair over the loss of family and friends, and worrisome changes to health can intensify throughout the holiday season, and it’s important to take the appropriate steps to help older loved ones avoid the downward spiral into depression.
If an older adult you love is feeling blue this holiday season, begin by asking yourself these three questions
- Could it possibly be normal nostalgia? Wistful feelings of nostalgia, thinking of pre-pandemic holiday get-togethers and celebrations, are normal for all of us. See if the older adult’s sadness is lifted immediately following a journey down memory lane, or if it lingers regardless of the topic of conversation.
- Is health affected? If your loved one is struggling to maintain a healthy eating plan, has issues falling or staying asleep each night, is losing weight, and/or feeling exhausted, these could all be symptoms of depression.
- Is the senior disengaged? Look for a lack of interest in previously-enjoyed activities, diminished motivation, trouble with focus and concentration, and/or the inability to sit still without fidgeting, as these can also be typical signs of depression.
Lara Honos-Webb, clinical psychologist and author of “Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life,” compares the difference between depression and sadness to colors. “A person is blue if they have deep, colorful emotions in response to loss in life. Depression is more like the color black – there [are] no subtle colors to the emotion but stark pain.”
It is crucial to seek medical attention if depression is suspected – and even if you’re uncertain – as effective treatment is available and necessary, and early detection is key. And there are specific steps members of the family can take to support a senior with depression:
- Make a list of the older adult’s interests, and set a schedule to engage in one or more of them together.
- Encourage your loved one to work out with you, including getting outside for walks to take pleasure in nature.
- Turn on some of the older adult’s favorite music, or if the senior plays an instrument, request that he/she play some songs for you.
- Stay positive yourself, providing affirmations to remind the senior of your love and of the countless small but wonderful aspects each new day brings.
- Most important of all, just be there, regardless of the senior’s mood. Oftentimes, just sitting together quietly can make an enormous amount of difference in how someone feels.
Since 1994, Hired Hands Homecare has been providing home care assistance in Santa Rosa and the surrounding communities. Connect with us at (866) 940-4343 for additional tips and resources to help enhance health and wellbeing for seniors, and for the professional in-home care that makes every day the very best it can be.