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Holidays Can Be a Depressing Time for Seniors

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Holidays are supposed to be times of joy, celebration and most importantly family.  But for many of our elderly, holidays can mean something totally different.

The holidays may serve as reminders of friends who may have passed away, their distance away from loved ones, lack of visitation and the inability to take part in many holiday events.

Signs of depression in your elderly loved one can be difficult to identify and are often times overlooked when they overlap with other medical illnesses or health problems.

Some of the most common symptoms of elderly depression during the holidays may include:

  • Decreased Appetite
  • Change in sleeping patterns or lack of sleep
  • Lack of Personal Care or Hygiene
  • Irresponsible Behavior
  • Decreased interest in socializing
  • Increased Irritability

Tips to Help Seniors Enjoy the Holidays:

Stroll down memory lane. Holidays provoke memories, which can be especially powerful in the later years of life.

Plan ahead. If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included.

Eliminate obstacles. If a holiday get-together is held in the home of an older person with memory impairment or behavioral problems, don’t rearrange the furniture.

Avoid embarrassing moments. Try to avoid making comments that could inadvertently embarrass an older friend or family member who may be experiencing short-term memory problems.

Create new memories. In addition to memories, seniors need new things to anticipate. Add something new to the holiday celebration, or volunteer for your family to help others.

Be inclusive. Involve everyone in holiday meal preparation, breaking down tasks to include the youngest and oldest family members.

Reach out. Social connectedness is especially important at holiday times. Reaching out to older relatives and friends who are alone is something all of us should do.

Beat the blues. “Holiday blues” are feelings of profound sadness that can be provoked by all the activities of the holiday season.

Keep on the sunny side. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression is an illness that can be provoked by reductions in sunlight during the short days of winter.

Monitor medications and alcohol. If you have senior family members, be sure to help them adhere to their regular schedule of medications during the frenzy of the holidays.

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