While the holidays are commonly thought of as a time of joy and celebration, they may be a time of a time of sadness and isolation for the elderly, especially if they have lost loved ones or are experiencing health or financial difficulties.
According to the American Geriatrics Society, there are some things that seniors can do combat holiday depression.
- Get out and about. Ask friends and relatives for help in getting to parties and events or invite them to your home.
- Volunteer. Volunteer work can lift your mood by taking your mind off your own troubles. Contact local schools, religious organizations or charities to learn about opportunities.
- Don't drink too much alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and can make you feel even worse.
- Accept and express your feelings. There's nothing wrong with feeling blue. Talking about it can help you understand why you feel like you do.
- Recognize the signs of depression. Symptoms of depression include sadness that doesn't pass; loss of interest or pleasure; changes in appetite or weight; sleeping more than normal; frequent crying; feeling restless or tired all the time; feeling worthless, helpless or guilty; slowed thinking and thoughts of death or suicide.
- See your healthcare provider. If you are depressed, see your physician. Depression is very treatable and you do not have to suffer.
Many older people do not realize that they are depressed, however, and it may be up to friends and family to recognized the signs and encourage them to seek assistance. If you suspect that someone you know is depressed, there are some things you can do to help.
- Invite them to do things with you. Invite them to go places with you and to holiday gatherings. Be aware that they may need help with transportation or special needs such as diet.
- Help with holiday tasks. Offer to help them with holiday shopping and preparation for get-togethers in their own home.
- Be a good listener. Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and acknowledge that they may be going through a difficult time.
- Encourage them to talk with their healthcare provider. Let them know that you are concerned about their well-being and that depression is a medical illness and nothing to be ashamed of. Offer to make an appointment for them and take them there.
You can learn more about depression in the elderly by visiting the Web site of the American Geriatrics Society's Foundation for Health in Aging.