Although this time of year is typically viewed as the season of joy, for some older adults, the holidays are a period of profound sadness. And this year is no exception. Longing for holidays past, sadness over the loss of loved ones, and aging-related changes to health can intensify throughout the holiday season, and it’s important to take precautions to help avoid holiday depression in the elderly.
To determine if an older adult you love is experiencing depression this holiday season, start by asking yourself the following three questions:
- Could it be common nostalgia? Wistful feelings of nostalgia, remembering pre-pandemic holiday celebrations and get-togethers, are normal for all of us. Evaluate if the senior’s sadness is lifted following a trip down memory lane, or if it lingers regardless of the topic of conversation.
- Is health impacted? If your loved one is struggling to maintain a healthy eating plan, has trouble staying or falling asleep during the night, is losing weight, and/or feeling excessively tired, these could all be indications of depression.
- Has the senior become disengaged? Look for a lack of interest in formerly-enjoyed activities, diminished motivation, challenges with focus and concentration, and/or the inability to sit still without fidgeting, as these can also be typical in depression.
Lara Honos-Webb, clinical psychologist and author of “Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life,” compares the distinction 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’s crucial to seek medical attention if depression is suspected – or even if you’re not sure – as effective treatment methods are available and necessary, and early detection and treatment are key. Below are some steps family members may take to support a senior loved one with depression:
- Make a list of the older adult’s hobbies and interests, and set a schedule to engage in one or more of them together.
- Encourage your loved one to exercise, including getting outside for walks to take pleasure in nature.
- Turn on some of the individual’s favorite music, or if the senior plays a musical instrument, request that he/she play some songs for you.
- Continue being positive yourself, providing affirmations to remind the senior of your love and of the many small, but wonderful, aspects each new day brings.
- Most important, just be present, despite the mood the individual may be in, to show him or her how much you care. Sometimes, just sitting quietly together can make an enormous amount of difference in how someone feels.
Contact JFS Care at 213-383-2273 for additional resources and support to help avoid holiday depression in the elderly and to schedule a free assessment. Make each day the best it can be with help from our highly-qualified caregivers, providing in-home care in Santa Monica and surrounding areas.