December 17, 2020 by Dean Bellefeuille

In spite of its reputation for being a season of joy, for some seniors, the holidays are a time of profound sadness. Longing for holidays past, grief over the loss of loved ones, and aging-related changes to health can intensify during the holiday season, and it’s important to take steps to prevent the downward spiral into depression in older adults.

Begin by asking yourself these three questions if a senior you love is feeling blue this holiday season.

  1. Is it normal nostalgia? Wistful feelings of nostalgia, remembering pre-pandemic holiday celebrations and get-togethers, are normal for all of us. See if the senior’s sadness is lifted after a trip down memory lane, or if it lingers regardless of the topic of conversation.
  2. Is health impacted? If your loved one is struggling to maintain a healthy diet, has problems falling or staying asleep during the night, is losing weight, and/or feeling fatigued, these could all be signs of depression.
  3. Is the senior disengaged? Look for a disinterest in previously-enjoyed activities, lack of motivation, difficulty with concentration and focus, and/or the inability to sit still without fidgeting, as these are also common in depression.

Lara Honos-Webb, clinical psychologist and author of “Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life,” compares the difference 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 crucial to seek medical attention if depression in older adults is suspected – or even if you’re unsure – as effective treatment is available and necessary, and early detection is key. And there are specific steps family members can take to support a senior loved one with depression:

  • Create a list of the senior’s interests, and set a schedule to engage in one or more of them together.
  • Encourage the senior 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/she play some songs for you.
  • Stay positive yourself, providing affirmations to remind the senior of your love and of the many small but wonderful aspects each new day brings.
  • Most importantly, just be there, regardless of the senior’s mood. Sometimes, just sitting quietly together can make a world of difference in how someone feels.

Contact At Home Independent Living’s experts in elder care in Memphis, NY and surrounding areas, at (315) 579-4663 for further tips and resources to help improve health and wellbeing for older adults, and for the professional in-home care that makes each day the best it can be.