Senior home care professionals get the chance to observe it every year – around holiday time, some of their charges become noticeably depressed and tend to withdraw into themselves. This is a very common occurrence in Pontotoc and elsewhere in the US because the feelings and experiences of seniors have points of commonality throughout the country. There are good reasons why the holiday season tends to be one of the saddest and most depressing of the year for elderly individuals, and that’s why greater empathy and compassion should be extended to them during this time. Below, we’ve identified some of the main reasons that seniors are negatively impacted by the holidays when everyone else seems to be in a joyous and celebratory mood.
Why seniors get depressed
Seniors for the most part have more reason than younger people do to be depressed during the holidays. Having lived much longer, it’s likely that they have experienced or are experiencing health issues that tend to affect their mood and cause them to wish for happier days. They might also have recently lost a spouse, a family member, or possibly even a beloved pet, and that’s always a major cause of sadness. Some seniors never recover their joyful spirit after being separated from a longtime partner or spouse.
In some cases, a senior might become preoccupied with the fact of their mortality, especially if they’re suffering from some chronic type of disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or some kind of cardio issue. They might be acutely aware that they’re nearing the end of their lives, and this can be a frightening prospect to consider. All these things can combine to make them feel lonely, isolated, and in some situations, unloved. Younger people don’t usually have any of these issues confronting them and are more or less free to enjoy all the celebrations and good feelings of the season.
Signs of depression
It should be fairly easy to spot signs of depression in a senior, and when you do observe some of these signs, you should take the time to engage with your senior loved one, so they feel part of the season and can enjoy it a little more. A continued unexplained sadness is the first sign you should look for, and when you see this, try and draw the senior out about the situation. Sometimes talking about it can help alleviate those feelings. There could be a sudden lack of interest in participating in social events or in getting together with friends.
Frequent bouts of crying, sudden difficulty with sleeping, or a noticeable increase in their anxiety level might be other signs that a senior is undergoing holiday depression. You might also observe a lack of motivation or interest, even in doing things they might normally like to do. Everything can take on a slightly different meaning and appeal during the holidays, and even favored activities can lose their luster. Finally, a loss of interest in eating or an observable weight loss can be additional signs that your senior loved one is going through difficult holiday times, and is bothered by something they perceive as a major problem.
What you can do to help
When you recognize that your senior loved one is going through holiday depression, there are a number of ways you can help them get through the difficult times. If one thing doesn’t work, you should try something else until you hit on a solution that seems to work. Start by trying to get them more active and to do some exercise – perhaps taking a walk with you. Remember that exercise releases more endorphins, the body’s ‘feel good’ hormones, into the system and this alone could brighten your loved one’s mood.
Another thing you can do is try to get them involved in some kind of volunteering activity, for instance doing some work at a local soup kitchen. Seeing others who are worse off than themselves might help a senior realize there are still some things they can appreciate because others have even less than they do. Just getting involved in seasonal activities helps to make a person feel more engaged and more a part of the season. If you’re having any kind of family celebration, try to involve your senior in the cooking, the decorating, or any of the other preparations that will help them feel like they’re needed.
Take your loved one for a ride around the area to see some of the holiday lights and decorations, and this could have an uplifting effect that will brighten their mood for the season. Try to encourage your senior parent to share their feelings, because talking about any issue will often help to alleviate it and make it seem less significant. Share your own feelings with them and that might encourage them to open up and tell you what’s troubling them. Anything you can do to draw them out and make them feel like they’re loved and needed during the holidays will go a long way toward lifting your senior’s spirits and improving their mood.