The holidays aren’t always a merry time of year for everyone. Whether you are mourning the loss of a loved one, have trouble enjoying the holidays, or are suffering from depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the “most wonderful time of the year,” can actually seem like the worst.
If you or a loved one are feeling down this holiday season, you are not alone. Feelings of depression and loneliness are quite common this time of year, across all age groups. If you are worried about holiday depression in the elderly, we have put together some tips to help you better understand it and what to do about it.
Understanding The Holiday Blues
The Centers for Disease Control has estimated that nearly 20% of people over the age of 55 “experience some type of mental health concern,” including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for mental health, thanks in part to the changing weather and loss of daylight.
While feeling a certain amount of sadness is normal, especially if you are grieving the loss of a loved one who recently passed, the more severe signs of senior depression include:
- Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
- Overwhelming sadness
- Loss of interest in daily activities and socializing
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of attention to personal hygiene
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you or a loved one are struggling with any of the above symptoms or problems, it is recommended to seek out professional help immediately. Start by telling your regular physician, who may provide you with a referral for a Psychiatrist, who can not only listen to your troubles but can also prescribe medication that can help to ease your mind.
Tackling Senior Depression
So, what is it about the holidays that can be triggering for seniors? There are a variety of components that lead to holiday depression in the elderly:
1. Problem: “Mourning” Happy Memories. Aging is not always easy, especially as you begin to lose loved ones along the way. Reminiscing about happier times, thinking about loved ones who are no longer with you, and thinking about what used to be can create a tailspin into depression for those feeling blue around the holidays. Some people feel that their best days are behind them, leaving them feeling sad and paralyzed.
Solution: Encourage yourself or loved ones to start a Mindful Meditation practice. Mindfulness helps you to learn how to live in the present moment and to find peace and calm. It also allows you to recognize feelings that arise and deal with them instead of ignoring them and allowing them to snowball into bigger problems.
2. Problem: Limited Mobility. Losing the ability to use your body as freely as you once could can have a profound effect on the mind. And you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to feel it, either. People who have lost mobility due to arthritis, diabetes, or injury, can struggle just as much, especially during the holidays. Having limited mobility can prevent you from participating in holiday celebrations the way you once could and hinders the entire experience.
Solution: Purchase a medical alert device from Medical Guardian. The Mobile Guardian is a great resource for people with limited mobility who still want to feel the freedom of being out of the house. It allows you to travel freely, without having to be tethered to a specific range for your service area. You can have greater peace of mind knowing that you’ll have access to help 24/7, just in case you need it.
3. Problem: Loneliness. This is a particular issue for seniors who live alone. According to the Administration on Aging, 29 percent of people over the age of 65 live alone, which puts them at greater risk of becoming isolated. The feelings of isolation and loneliness can become compounded after spending an extended period of time with friends and family during the holidays, leading to the holiday blues.
Solution: Encourage your loved ones to get more involved in community activities. Whether it involves volunteer work, or participating in events at the local senior center, the important part is simply getting out of the house and connecting with other people.
4. Problem: Financial Stress. With the cost of living and health care costs on the rise and people now living longer than ever, many seniors are anxious about their financial situations. There are a lot of factors when it comes to maintaining your finances and it can be difficult for people to continue to manage them as they age. While this can be a year-round problem, the feelings of anxiety can grow during the holidays due to added spending for gifts and can lead to senior depression.
Solution: Make a plan to sit down with a financial planner. Hearing professional advice from an expert is an ideal way to ease the anxieties you or your loved one may have about money.
The main component to battling holiday depression in the elderly is feeling connected. When we are connected, we are sharing and talking and unloading our burden to clear our minds. It’s easy to get distracted and disconnect during the holidays, especially from our senior loved ones, but it is more important than ever to reconnect in order to help ensure that no one we love struggles unnecessarily.