Traditionally a time of gratitude and giving, the holidays are supposed to be filled with fun, food, family, and so much more. But not everyone has the same experience. Due to a change in circumstances, seniors sometimes find themselves spending more time alone than they did in previous years, experiencing “the blues” or something more. Studies show that loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher rates of depression in older adults.
Triggers of Depression in Older Adults
The holidays can exacerbate feelings of isolation, and holidays or otherwise, reasons for depression in seniors can vary. These range from the loss of a spouse or close friends, or susceptibility to other’s illnesses (warranting distancing) in the time in which we live, when viruses and epidemics are predominant. Dementia, of which depression is a byproduct, or a change in lifestyle due to illness, retirement, or downsizing can also lead to depression. While the proverbial “golden years” are typically associated with a much-deserved respite from decades of hard work and raising a family, late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans ages 65 and older. Reportedly only about 10% receive the help they need, but especially around the holidays there is something you can do to help a loved one feel better.
Simple Ways Seniors Can Push Back Against the Holiday Blues
If your senior loved one has experienced a change, a little anticipation about what they may feel goes a long way. If you live close by, be extra vigilant about visiting more and/or taking your special senior out for a meal, hot cocoa at your local skating rink (always an uplifting experience to watch the skaters), shopping at the mall, or cooking and baking together as you may have in previous years. Involving him or her in as many of your holiday activities as possible will keep the joy flowing, as activity is associated with an elevated mood.
Give More of Your Time to an Aging Loved One
“We lost dad in August,” says Anita Collier* of Arvada, Colorado. “Mom lives three hours away, so we decided to pick her up and have her stay with us for the two weeks around the holidays. We knew how much it would mean to her rather than just spending Christmas Day together, given the distance, as we’d done with her and dad in the past. We wanted her to know we were celebrating her every day.”
Start a New Holiday Tradition That Provides Seniors a Sense of Purpose
Experts say that holidays or otherwise, volunteering your time reaps the biggest rewards and not only for the receiver. Volunteering provides a great sense of purpose for the giver, with experts agreeing it causes you to focus less on your own troubles. Accordingly, the holidays may be the time to involve a senior loved one in an activity s/he can continue throughout the new year.
Volunteering Promotes Better Overall Senior Health
Community organizations and other nonprofits are always looking for help, a need that’s fulfilled during the holidays but drops off significantly the other 10 months of the year. Does your loved one have a special skill or interest that would benefit young people, shelter animals, those going through cancer treatment, hospital patients, other seniors, or another deserving group? Volunteering connects us with like-minded people, contributes to the community, and in many cases encourages physical activity which is so important in alleviating depression and promoting better health overall. It is known to encourage brain health through learning, as people receive new information to help them in their efforts. If mobility is an issue, there are many volunteer options that do not involve a physical component, and where the nonprofit will provide transportation to the volunteer site. In short, there is no downside to volunteering.
Consult with Senior Care Professionals
Finally, if it’s difficult to motivate your loved one to participate during the holidays, and you sense depression lingering afterward, it may be time to consult his or her physician about steps to take going forward. There are numerous resources available to help you learn the warning signs of depression, with counseling, medication, and other options explained in detail.
Caring Companionship Tailored for Seniors
The trained caregivers at Amada Senior Care can provide at-risk seniors with the attentive and caring companionship they need to avoid depression and enjoy the holidays. Whether a senior needs to have someone to go to holiday events with, to help around the house, or simply to talk to, our in-home caregivers can be counted on. Contact us today for a free care needs consultation.
*Name has been changed for privacy purposes.
“Ways to Help a Senior Loved One Battle the Holiday Blues,” written by Beth Herman, Amada blog contributor.