~ by Richard Sgaglio
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 notice a change in their mood or behavior during the holidays. You may even see signs of sadness or depression.
The holiday season can intensify feelings of sadness which some seniors experience. Most often it is not the holiday itself that causes these types of emotions, rather it’s the fact that the holidays tend to bring back memories of earlier times.
During the holidays, older adults can focus on the passing of time, as well as the absence of spouses, parents, siblings and friends who have passed away, and the distance of loved ones who have moved away. Traditional get togethers that were observed in the past may not be possible, and in their absence, the holidays may seem empty and without meaning.
Helping someone through seasonal or holiday depression can be a tricky thing but there are ways to support them and help them cope through the holidays. Here are a few suggestions to consider.
Visit as much as possible during the holiday season. Spend quality time with your elderly loved one. Visits should not be about caregiving. They should revolve about fun things you can share or to help continue family traditions such as cooking, baking, music or crafting.
If you are unable to visit your loved one, call them frequently. Making a plan to call at a certain time each day or week, gives the person a sense of structure and provides them with something to look forward to.
If you are able to spend time with an aging loved one, plan activities that are appropriate for their mobility level. Older adults with physical limitations can be included in kitchen activities by asking them to do a simple task, such as peeling vegetables, folding napkins or arranging flowers. With assistance, they can wrap presents, help create shopping lists and write holiday cards.
Create new traditions in which they are easily able to participate, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations and lights. This can be a fun and easy excursion.
When visiting your loved one, do not forget to listen. It is common for visitors to end up doing most of the talking during a visit. This is one of the most generous gifts you can offer an elderly person. Listening helps individuals feel appreciated, valued, and loved.
Do not underestimate the power of affection. Hugs, holding hands and other physical gestures of affection have the potential to ease their minds. These acts of affection make them feel less isolated, as well as reducing stress and anxiety.
Holiday blues are usually temporary and mild, but depression is more serious and can linger unless you get help. Signs of depression include:
- Overall sadness
- Loss of interest
- Changes in eating habits
- Being restless
- Feeling helpless
- Reduced energy
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Sleeping too much
Here is how to help someone with the holiday blues
- Include them in holiday plans!
- Invite them out and to get-togethers and offer to pick them up
- Offer to help them with their cleaning, shopping or cooking
- Decorate with them
- Be an active and supportive listener and encourage them to talk about feelings.
- Acknowledge feelings of loss if a family member or friends have died.
- Gauge their depression and know when to seek professional help.
How can you help yourself if you are feeling the holiday blues?
Get out of the house! Ask family members and friends to take you out. You can go to a park, the mall or even just to lunch. Taking a brisk walk in the morning before you begin the day, or in the evening to wind down.
Volunteer your time! Helping others is a great mood lifter. To volunteer, contact a local non-profit organization that specializes in something you feel strongly about – the arts, children or music to name just a few. You can also or call local hospitals, museums and food pantries to inquire about volunteer opportunities.
Accept your feelings! We all experience sadness differently and you can have feelings of loss during the holidays. Be kind to yourself, seek support, and even laugh at yourself every now and then.
Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with friends, family and neighbors. Let others know what you are experiencing. It can help you understand why you feel the way you do. Making a simple phone call, having a chat over coffee, or writing a nice e-mail, greeting card, or letter can brighten your mood.
The holidays are a great time of the year to celebrate but not everyone sees them as happy. Sometimes people reflect on the old days and focus on people they have lost. These thoughts can make them feel sad rather than joyous. If you see a friend or relative that is a little blue this holiday season, please reach out to them. It may make you both feel a little merrier!
The information in the above article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.