Holiday Blues - Depression Among the Elderly

Published: November 24, 2017

By: Wendy Olean, social services manager, LIFE Butler County

The holiday season offers many opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends. If you are a caregiver or family member of an aging loved one, you may observe a change in their mood or behavior during the holidays. You may notice unusual signs of fatigue or sadness or perhaps limited interest in the holiday season.

The winter holiday season, and the colder months which accompany it, can intensify feelings of sadness which aging seniors often experience. Most often it is not the holiday itself that causes these types of emotions among the elderly, rather the fact that the holidays tend to bring memories of earlier, perhaps happier times.

What causes depression in the elderly?

Depression can be caused by a minor or serious medical problem, chronic pain or complications of an illness, memory loss, poor diet, lack of exercise, change in routine, and general frustrations with aging. Symptoms to look for include:

  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Feelings of worthlessness or sadness
  • Expressions of helplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of attention to personal care and hygiene
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irresponsible behavior
  • Obsessive thoughts about death and suicide

How can you help an elderly loved one during the holidays?

As a caregiver or family member of a depressed older person, make it your responsibility to get involved. The elderly 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 them feel the magic of the season and feel loved with some of these activities:

  • Baking, crafting and decorating or gift wrapping
  • Church activities
  • Shopping and/or spa day
  • Visiting family and friends
  • Caroling
  • Volunteering

These few simple activities can help your loved one shake off some of their holiday blues, but if their depressions symptoms persist or worsen, contact their health care provider.

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