Recognizing and Alleviating the Holiday Blues in the Aging Population

holidays blues in the aging population

While the holidays are synonymous with joy and cheer, for the aging population, this time of year can be difficult.

According to the American Medical Resource Institute, approximately 6 million people over 65 are depressed. For many, feelings of sadness and despondency increase this time of year.

Aging can be trying. The elderly are dealing with a lot of stressors than can cause sadness and depression. They could be experiencing: chronic pain, illness complications, memory loss, loss of a loved one, a care facility transition. The list could go on.

When you combine these stressors with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be overwhelming.

If you are a caregiver or family member of an aging loved one, lookout for these depression symptoms:

  1. Anxiety

  2. Loss of interest in daily activities

  3. Depressed or irritable mood

  4. Feelings of worthlessness or sadness

  5. Expressions of helplessness

  6. Loss of appetite

  7. Weight loss

  8. Lack of attention to personal care and hygiene

  9. Fatigue

  10. Difficulty concentrating

Here’s a few ways you can try to cheer an elderly loved one during the holidays:

Overall, get involved. One of the best ways to help your aging loved one or patient eschew the blues is by including them in the season. Oftentimes, the underlying cause of sadness may not necessarily be with the holiday itself, but the emotions that go along with remembering earlier, happier times. Make this year happy too. Help them create new memories. Try including them in some of these holiday activities:

  • Volunteer - It’s the season of giving. If your grandma or grandpa love kids, coordinate an outing to a children’s hospital. Or, go with gram or gramps to feed the homeless. Serving others is the best way to get in the holiday spirit and beat the blues.

  • Get social – Often times the aging population feels forgotten. This time of year can exacerbate those feelings. Surround your elderly family members with friends and loved ones. Make extra effort to include them in a meal, conversation or a card game.

  • Go to church - Churches are filled with holiday activities. If your aging loved one is religious, a church outing or service could be a perfect fit.

  • Shop - You’re going to shop this time of year, you might as well invite your great aunt along. You’ll both benefit from the together time.

  • Light up the month - Adding indoor lights can help get anyone in the holiday spirit. Help deck the halls for those who can’t.

  • Talk about it - If your patient or loved one seems depressed, start a dialogue. It may be as simple as saying, "How are you feeling?"

  • Reminisce (my personal favorite) - At a holiday gathering, go around the room and share your favorite holiday memory. Nothing brings a smile more than remembering all the happy times spent together and honoring those who may not be there to share.

From the MHA family, we wish you a blessed holiday season and an amazing 2019. In our lives, there are so many things to be thankful for. Let’s all make the extra effort to include ALL of our loved ones in December festivities. It’ll bring extra happiness to all involved. As always, please take care of each other.

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