Older Adults and Depression During the Holidays – And How You Can Help

Older Adults and Seniors. Older woman holding mug

In spite of its reputation for being a season of joy, for some older adults, the holidays are a time of profound sadness. Longing for holidays past, grief over the loss of members of the family, and aging-related changes to health can magnify through the holiday season, and it is important to take steps to help older loved ones stop the downward fall into depression.

Start with asking yourself these three questions to help a situation involving older adults and depression.

  1. Is it regular nostalgia? Wistful feelings of nostalgia, remembering pre-pandemic holiday get-togethers and celebrations, are normal for all of us. See if the older adult’s sadness is lifted following a trip down memory lane, or if it lingers regardless of the topic of conversation.
  2. Is health impacted? If your family member is struggling to maintain a balanced and healthy diet, has struggles staying or falling asleep during the night, is losing weight, and/or feeling fatigued, these could all be symptoms of depression.
  3. Is the senior disengaged? Watch for a lack of interest in formerly-enjoyed activities, diminished motivation, problems with focus and concentration, and/or the inability to sit still without fidgeting, as these are likewise typical in depression.

Lara Honos-Webb, clinical psychologist and author of “Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life,” compares the contrast between depression and sadness 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 is essential to seek medical attention if depression is suspected – and even if you are unsure – as effective treatment is readily available and essential, and early detection is key. And there are particular steps members of the family may take to support a senior with depression:

  • Make a list of the senior’s interests, and set a schedule to engage in several of them together. 
  • Encourage your loved one to work out with you, including getting outside for walks to appreciate 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.
  • Continue being positive yourself, providing affirmations to remind the senior of the numerous small but wonderful aspects each new day brings.
  • Above all, just be there, regardless of the senior’s mood. Often, just sitting together quietly can make a world of difference in how someone feels.

Get in touch with Stay Home Care’s experts in home and dementia care in Nashville and surrounding areas at 615-964-7726 for additional tips and resources to help improve health and wellbeing for the elderly, and for the top notch in-home care that makes every single day the very best it can be.