December 10, 2020
Although this season is typically viewed as the season of joy, for some seniors, the holidays are a period of profound unhappiness. Longing for holidays past, sadness over the loss of family members, and aging-related changes to health can magnify during the holiday season, and it is imperative to take the appropriate steps to help older loved ones avoid the downward spiral into holiday depression.
Start with asking yourself these three questions if a senior you love is feeling blue this holiday season.
- Could it be regular nostalgia? Wistful feelings of nostalgia, thinking about pre-pandemic holiday get-togethers and celebrations, are normal for all of us. See if the senior’s sadness is lifted following a trip 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 balanced and healthy diet, has difficulty staying or falling asleep during the night, is losing weight, and/or feeling fatigued, these could all be signs of depression.
- Is the senior disengaged? Look for a disinterest in formerly-enjoyed hobbies, lack of motivation, trouble 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 contrast 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 help if depression is suspected – and even if you’re not sure – as effective treatment is readily available and necessary, and early detection is key. And there are specific steps family members may take to support a loved one with depression:
- Make a list of the senior’s hobbies and interests, and set a schedule to take part in one or more of them together.
- Encourage your senior loved one to work out along with you, including getting outside for walks to appreciate nature.
- Turn on some of the older adult’s favorite music, or if the senior plays a musical instrument, request that she/he play some songs for you.
- Stay positive yourself, providing affirmations to remind the individual of your love as well as the many small but wonderful aspects each new day brings.
- Most important of all, just be there, regardless of the older adult’s mood. In some cases, just sitting together quietly tends to make an enormous amount of difference in how someone feels.
Connect with Continuum at (636) 861-3336 for further tips and resources that can help enhance health and wellness for senior loved ones, and for the specialized in-home care in St. Charles and the surrounding areas that makes each day the best it can be.