Although this season is typically viewed as the season of joy, for many seniors, the holidays are a period of deep despair. Longing for holidays past, grief over the loss of loved ones, and worries over changes to health can intensify during the holiday season, and it is important to take the appropriate steps to help your loved ones avoid the downward spiral into depression in older adults.
Our top-rated in-home caregivers in Portage and other Michigan communities suggest asking yourself these three questions if a senior loved one is feeling sad this holiday season.
- Might it be normal nostalgia? Wistful feelings of nostalgia, remembering pre-pandemic holiday get-togethers and celebrations, are normal for all of us. See if the older adult’s sadness is lifted following a trip down memory lane, or if it lingers no matter the topic of conversation.
- Is health impacted? If your loved one is struggling to maintain a healthy eating plan, has difficulty falling or staying asleep during the night, is losing weight, and/or feeling fatigued, these could all be indications of depression.
- Is the senior disengaged? Look for a lack of interest in formerly-enjoyed hobbies, decreased motivation, challenges with concentration and focus, and/or the inability to sit still without fidgeting, as these are also typical in depression.
Lara Honos-Webb, clinical psychologist and author of “Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life,” compares the contrast between sadness and depression to colors. “A person is blue if they have deep, colorful emotions in response to loss in life. Depression is more like the color black – there [are] no subtle colors to the emotion but stark pain.”
It’s essential to seek medical attention if depression is suspected – and even if you’re uncertain – as effective treatment methods are available and essential, and early detection and treatment are key. And there are particular steps family members can take to support a senior loved one with depression:
- Make a list of the senior’s interests, and set a time to engage in one or more of them together.
- Encourage your loved one to exercise with you, including getting outside for walks to enjoy nature.
- Turn on some of the senior’s favorite music, or if the senior plays an instrument, request that he or she play some songs for you.
- Remain positive yourself, providing affirmations to remind a senior loved one of your love as well as the many small but wonderful aspects each new day brings.
- Most importantly, just be there, regardless of senior’s mood. At times, just sitting quietly together can make an enormous amount of difference in how someone feels.
Reach out to Home Sweet Home In-Home Care at (866) 229-2505 for more resources and tips to help enhance health and wellbeing for cherished loved ones, and for the personalized in-home care that makes every day the very best it can be. For a full list of the communities we serve, please visit our Locations page.