Although this season is typically viewed as the season of joy, quite a few older adults experience the senior holiday blues. Longing for holidays past, grief over the loss of family and friends, and aging-related changes to health can intensify through the holiday season, and it’s crucial to take steps to help older loved ones stop the downward spiral into depression.
Start by asking yourself these three questions if a senior loved one is suffering from the holiday blues this season.
- Is it normal nostalgia? Wistful feelings of nostalgia, thinking about pre-pandemic holiday get-togethers and celebrations, are normal for all of us. See if the older adult’s sadness is lifted after a journey down memory lane, or if it lingers no matter the topic of conversation.
- Is health affected? If your loved one is struggling to sustain a healthy diet, has trouble staying or falling asleep during the night, is losing weight, and/or feeling excessively tired, these could all be signs of depression.
- Is the senior disengaged? Watch for a disinterest in formerly-enjoyed hobbies, diminished motivation, struggles with focus and concentration, and/or the inability to sit still without fidgeting, as these can also be common 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 sadness and depression 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 important to seek medical assistance if depression is suspected – and even if you are uncertain – as effective treatment methods are available and necessary, and early detection is key. Family members can take the following steps to support a senior with depression:
- Create a list of the senior’s hobbies and interests, and set a schedule to engage in one or more of them together.
- Encourage your senior loved one to exercise together with you, including getting outside for walks to enjoy nature.
- Turn on some of the older adult’s favorite music, or if the senior plays a musical instrument, request that she or he play some songs for you.
- Stay positive yourself, providing affirmations to remind the person of your love and of the numerous small but wonderful aspects each new day brings.
- Most of all, just be there, regardless of the senior’s mood. Oftentimes, just sitting quietly together tends to make an enormous amount of difference in how someone feels.
Reach out to CareWorks Health Services, providers of top-rated home care in Seal Beach and the surrounding areas, at (949) 859-4700 for further resources and tips in order to help improve overall health for cherished loved ones, and for the specialized in-home care that makes each day the best it can be.