Although this season is typically viewed as the season of joy, for many, holiday senior depression is real and brings with it a period of deep despair. Yearning for holidays past, sadness over the loss of close friends and family, and difficult changes to health can magnify throughout the holiday season, and it’s essential to take steps to help senior loved ones prevent the downward fall into depression.
Start with asking yourself these three questions if a senior you love is feeling blue this holiday season.
- Might it be regular nostalgia? Wistful feelings of nostalgia, remembering pre-pandemic holiday celebrations and get-togethers, are normal for all of us. Determine if the older adult’s sadness is lifted following a journey down memory lane, or if it lingers no matter what the topic of conversation is.
- Is health affected? If your loved one is struggling to sustain a balanced and healthy diet, has difficulty with staying or falling asleep during the night, is losing weight, and/or is feeling fatigued, these could all be indications of depression.
- Is the senior disengaged? Look for a lack of interest in formerly-enjoyed activities, diminished motivation, trouble with concentration and focus, 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 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 essential to seek medical assistance if depression is suspected – and even if you’re uncertain – as effective treatment is readily available and necessary, and early detection and treatment are key. Also, there are a number of steps members of the family can take to support a loved one with depression:
- Create a list of the senior’s interests, and set a schedule to take part in one or more of them together.
- Encourage your loved one to exercise along with you, including getting outside for walks in nature.
- Turn on some of the senior’s favorite music, or if the senior plays an instrument, request that she or he play some songs for you.
- Remain positive yourself, providing affirmations of your love, as well as the many small but wonderful gifts each new day brings.
- Most importantly, just be there, whatever the older adult’s mood. At times, just sitting together quietly may make a world of difference in how someone feels.
Connect with the St. Petersburg senior care experts at Generations at Home for more tips and resources in order to help enhance health and wellness for older adults, and for high quality in-home care which makes every single day the very best it can be.