Elderly Depression and the Holidays
Holiday depression sometimes affects all of us as we get caught up into planning and
attending holiday parties, reacquainting ourselves with old friends, and finding the time to shop for gifts, planning family reunions and get-togethers.
However, for many individuals, and most especially seniors, the holidays can be especially sad and depressing.
For many seniors, the holidays are not a time of celebration and joy, but only serve as reminders of how lonely he or she may be, the friends that have passed on, the lack of family get-togethers and an inability to participate in such events. Commonly known as the holiday blues, elderly depression during the holidays affects singles, divorcees, and seniors around the world, and not only during the traditional American holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but other events as well.
It doesn't matter whether it's a winter holiday, Mother's Day, or the Fourth of July: many seniors look at holidays as major hurdles to overcome. Elderly depression, loneliness, lack of social interaction, and an inability to get around severely limit many senior's ability to partake in such joyous occasions.
Depending on geographical location, weather often plays a big part in an elderly person's inability to get out or socialize during holiday seasons.
Wintertime holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah are often rainy, cold or snowy, making it extremely difficult for seniors to navigate or enjoy. Often times, medical conditions such as arthritis prevent many seniors from venturing outdoors during cold winter months.
Warm weather can be just as bad, and seniors living in locations such as the deep South or the Southwest are prone to heat exhaustion and heat strokes, which also keeps them indoors. Children and family members spread throughout a state or country often prevent elderly parents from visiting children, grandchildren or other extended family members because of the cost of transportation, compounded by the inability to get from point A to point B.
Common Symptoms of Elderly Depression during the Holidays.
Family members and friends are cautioned to be alert to signs of holiday depression among seniors, regardless of whether they live on their own, with family members or in a long-term care facility. Depression is more apparent in seniors who have limited options for travel, or whose family members are scattered over long distances. Some of the most common symptoms of elderly depression during the holidays may include:
Of course, there are more, and individuals who know how mom or dad usually act are usually the first to pick up on cues or clues that something isn't right. Picking up on such clues is essential in order to help provide seniors with the attention and care needed to prevent serious repercussions and side effects of depression.
Regardless of whether your elderly parent is in a home or a long-term care facility, children of aging parents can take several steps to ensure the mental health and well-being of their loved ones. Arranging and engaging in regular phone contact when family members are distant is important to make the elderly parent feel cared for, thought about and loved. Scheduling regular visits to long-term care facilities is also important so that seniors don't feel they have been abandoned and forgotten.
On special occasions such as Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, try to ensure that an elderly parent is involved in activities or at least is a recipient of well wishes and thoughts by family members and friends. On holidays such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July, try to encourage aging parents to take part in community events, or arrange to have that parent recognized by community organizations for their contributions as a veteran.
Holidays can be extremely stressful times for all individuals, especially those worried about finances, family responsibilities and obligations. However, the best thing children of aging parents or caretakers of seniors can do is to make sure that a loved one feels special, and is provided with a sense of self-worth. Do whatever you can to involve an aging parent in holiday activities, whether it's filling out Christmas cards, addressing envelopes, helping plan get-togethers or helping with arts and crafts for holiday decorating.
If you feel your parent is dealing with long-term depression that seems worse at holiday time, schedule a visit with his or her physician and suggest antidepressants when necessary.
The bottom line is to encourage loved ones to stay active, involved and engaged in family and community events whenever possible. These activities don't have to be big, but can be anything that helps make them feel a sense of belonging and provides them with the ability to continue contributing to family and community well-being, regardless of age.