The holidays can trigger sadness, loneliness, and depression in many adults, especially seniors. It’s not generally the holiday itself; rather, it is often a variety of things surrounding the events between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that contribute to the holiday blues. The holidays not only remind them of loved ones they lost but also of another chapter closing in their own lives.
Loneliness during the holidays is intensified for seniors who are alone with no family or friends who live nearby. The holidays can be stressful for most adults; it is more so for seniors who may not have the health, energy, or means to enjoy all the festivities.
Signs of Depression in Seniors
The good news is that holiday blues is temporary and usually subsides after the start of the New Year. However, if you see any persistent symptoms in an elderly parent, this could be a sign of depression. According to the National Institute on Aging, depression is a common problem among older adults. Symptoms of ongoing depression include:
• Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood;
• Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities;
• Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism;
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness;
• Decreased energy, fatigue, being slowed down;
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions;
• Difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or oversleeping;
• Loss of appetite or weight changes;
• Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts;
• Restlessness or irritability;
• Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without an apparent physical cause and that does not go away even with treatment.
It is important to note that suicidal thoughts or actions should never be ignored and the following measures should be taken:
• Call your doctor.
• Call 911 for emergency services.
• Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
• Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to speak with a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.
How to Help Seniors Cope with the Holiday Blues
• Include elderly loved ones in your holiday plans. Offer to provide transportation to and from an event, but also respect their need to relax. Let seniors know what the holiday plans are and let them decide what they would like to attend.
• Go out. It’s critical for seniors to leave the house and enjoy some fresh air every day, if possible. Take a senior out for lunch, a cup of coffee, or simply a ride in the car. Getting out of the house is a great mood lifter!
• Talk to them. It is crucial for the elderly to share their thoughts about what they are feeling around the holidays. Give them a chance to express their thoughts and feelings. They will feel better, and their spirits will be lifted.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. Speak to your physician or mental health provider for medical advice. Call the advocates at Assisted Living Made Simple for more information on senior resources in your area.