The holiday season is almost upon us.

It can be an exciting time, as well as a challenging one full of memories that evoke feelings of sadness.

There are several things you can do to help your elderly loved one through this difficult time. If you are a Caregiver for an elderly loved one, you may notice a change in their mood as the holidays approach. The holiday season offers many opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends, but this can be a tough time if you have any family and friends that have passed away.

What causes depression in the elderly?

The elderly population is at an increased risk for depression during the holidays. It’s not the holiday itself that causes this depression, but the fact that the holidays tend to bring up memories of earlier, happier times. During the holidays, older adults tend to feel the passing of time, as well as the absence of parents, siblings and friends who have died, and the distance of loved ones who have moved away. Traditional reunions and rituals that were observed in the past may not be possible, and in their absence, the holidays may seem devoid of meaning.

Depression in the elderly is difficult to diagnose and is frequently untreated.

The symptoms may be confused with a medical illness, dementia, chronic pain, complications of an illness or memory loss, or malnutrition due to a poor diet. Many older people will not accept the idea that they have depression, and might refuse to seek treatment.

Symptoms to look for that point to depression might include:

  • Unusual signs of fatigue or sadness
  • Limited interest in the holiday season
  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Feelings of worthlessness or sadness
  • Expressions of helplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Loss of appetite and or weight loss
  • Lack of attending to personal care and hygiene
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irresponsible behavior
  • Obsessive thoughts about death
  • Talking about suicide

How can you help a Client, or loved one during the holidays?

As a Caregiver or family member of a depressed older person, make it your responsibility to get involved. You can make a significant difference and remove or lessen the holiday blues for seniors suffering from depression. The elder person generally denies any problems or may fear being mentally ill, which can make it that much harder to know if the elder person is having any issues. You can help the elder person feel the magic of the season and feel loved by including them in general activities such as:

  • Do some holiday baking!
  • Attend some church activities
  • Start a holiday craft
  • Decorate the home for the holidays
  • Go to and make some homemade gifts!
  • Try a diet change – your nutrition affects your mood. Try introducing more vitamin-filled foods!
  • Remember the support group – check in with friends and send a few snail mail letters to keep in touch!
  • Talk through feelings of depression. Sometimes therapy can just be talking about it!
  • Get some Vitamin D! If the weather is nice, soak up some rays of sun! This has been proven to help relieve symptoms of depression.

No matter how you decide to treat depression, be sure to address and be there for Seniors in your life who are experiencing these symptoms, and get help from a professional if symptoms worsen.


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