This morning, I heard the song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” playing on the radio. A classic holiday tune for sure, but then it struck me … for some people, especially seniors who live alone or have recently lost a loved one, the holidays may actually cause more pain than joy.
They may not be able to keep up with the holiday hustle and bustle like they used to, thereby deflating their self-esteem. Distance and physical limitations can also make it difficult to travel to see extended family, causing loneliness and despair. Thinking back to happier, healthier times may actually cause feelings of anxiety and depression.
While occasional feelings of sadness are normal, depression is a mental and emotional disorder that can cause physical pain and must be treated accordingly by a physician. It’s important to visit and check on your elderly loved ones often, not just during the holidays.
Warning Signs of Elderly Depression:
- Sadness and low self-esteem
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Social withdrawal
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Suicidal thoughts
If you think someone may be suffering from depression, approach the subject gently and offer emotional support. Let them know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but rather, an opportunity to seek treatment to live a happier, healthier life.
Tips on Easing Depression
- Visit your loved one often, and invite them out – a change of scenery can be good for their spirits. If distance or physical limitations are a challenge, consider Skyping with your loved one or helping them do their holiday shopping online. If you can’t be there, you may also consider hiring a professional caregiver, such as Home Helpers, to provide companionship and daily assistance to your loved one.
- Volunteer to escort your loved one to and from their physician visits to ensure proper follow-up care.
- Prepare healthy meals – improper nutrition and vitamin deficiencies can worsen depression.
- Make sure all medications are being taken properly. Medial alert system distributors, such as Direct Link, offer automated medication dispensers to ensure the right dose is being taken at the right time, thereby relieving worries of noncompliance.
As always, it’s important to speak with your loved one’s physician if you suspect he or she may be suffering from depression or experiencing thoughts of suicide.
The holidays are meant to be a time of love and happiness spent with family and friends. This season, I encourage you to spend a little extra time with your elderly loved ones, sharing stories of holidays past and making new memories along the way.
I wish you all a happy, healthy holiday season and a prosperous New Year!