How to recognize and beat the Holiday Blues
November 29, 2018
by Becky Deo
Holiday lights are shining bright. Delicious food is everywhere. Lively music plays on the radio. The whole world should be happy!
This isn’t always the case. Holiday sadness and depression are common occurrences among older adults. You might remember Mom or Dad loving the holiday season, always happy and wearing a smile.
Now that parents are older, the holidays can be a mixed blessing for them. Yes, they enjoy the beauty of the winter holidays, but they also grow sad remembering good times with a spouse that is no longer living. Or with a dear friend who has died.
Perhaps they are no longer living in their house and miss the picture window that showed off the perfect Christmas tree. These memories and losses can bring on strong emotions and can be difficult to face. And the winter holiday season and its colder months can intensify feelings of sadness experienced by aging seniors.
Health conditions or worries about money also can lead to what Health in Aging calls the “Holiday Blues,” which usually is a temporary malady. However, if your loved one experiences several of the warning signs of depression every day for as long as two weeks, talk to the primary healthcare provider.
Some of the most common symptoms of elderly depression during the holidays include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Apathy or lethargy
- Weight loss
- Irritable mood; Anxiety
- Irresponsible behavior
- Change in sleeping habits
- Change in appetite
- Loss of interest in socializing.
- Lack of attention to personal care and hygiene
Caregivers and family members will be the first to notice these kinds of changes in their senior. Usually, the elder person will deny a problem, not wanting to be a burden.
If your older loved ones are thinking about how quickly time has passed or are missing someone special, Health in Aging reports that “you can help the elder person feel the magic of the season and feel loved by including them in general activities” and offers a few ideas for how to help them cope with the sadness that accompanies their holidays.
- Making Holiday cookies
- Seasonal crafts
- Gift Wrapping
- Getting a haircut or hot shave
- Church activities and Volunteering
- Scrapbooking about their passed loved one
- Spending time in fresh air and sunshine
In addition to including seniors in holiday preparations and fun, lend a hand with cooking and cleaning and be a good listener. Try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes to better understand how he or she feels.