The holidays are usually expected to be filled with happiness, friendliness, fellowship and harmony, but for many seniors it is far cry from reality. For many, feelings of sadness, loneliness and isolation are their holiday companions.
There are many different factors that can contribute to seniors being at particular risk of suffering from the "holiday blues," including:
- Reminders of past losses of significant loved ones
- Sadness over the contrast between "then" and “now”
- Spending the holidays without family
- Coping with failing health
To help make the holidays more enjoyable for seniors, The American Geriatrics Society recently published a list of activities to help cope with the holiday blues.
Seniors are encouraged to:
- Get out and about: Ask family and friends for assistance traveling to holiday parties or invite them over. Taking a walk daily is also a great way to beat the blues.
- Volunteer: Helping others is a great mood lifter. Many different organizations need extra help during this time of year.
- Drink responsibly: Don’t drink too much this season, excessive drinking can lower your spirits.
- Accept your feelings: There’s nothing wrong with not feeling overjoyed and merry during the holidays, be kind to yourself.
- Talk to someone: Talk about your feelings, it can help you understand why you feel the way you do.
Many older people don’t realize they are depressed or blue. If you suspect that an older loved one, or someone you know, is depressed, there are some things you can do to help:
- Include them: Invite them to holiday gatherings with you
- Lend a hand: Offer help with running errands, wrapping presents, cleaning, cooking or anything else they might need.
- Be a good listener: Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and acknowledge that it may be a difficult time.
It is important to note that the holiday blues usually fade after a short period of time. Depression, on the other hand, lasts longer and is more serious. If you notice that a loved one seems depressed, encourage your loved one to talk about how he or she is feeling, you may need to bring it up more than once, and acknowledge their difficult feelings. Depression is treatable, but it is important to discuss all options with one’s health care provider.
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