Holiday Blues

Depression Among the Elderly

Published: December 01, 2015

by: Wendy Olean, Social Services Manager, LIFE Butler County

The holiday season offers many opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends. You may observe a change in your mood or behavior during the holidays. You may notice unusual signs of fatigue or sadness or perhaps limited interest in the holiday season.

The winter holiday season (and the colder months that accompany it) can intensify feelings of sadness which aging seniors often experience. Most often it is not the holiday itself that causes these types of emotions among the elderly, rather the fact that the holidays tend to bring memories of earlier, perhaps happier times.

What causes depression in the elderly?

Depression can be caused by a minor or serious medical problem such as chronic pain or complications of an illness; memory loss; poor diet; loss of a spouse, close friend or companion; a move to a care facility; lack of exercise; change in routine; general frustrations with aging. 

Symptoms to look for include:

  • depressed or irritable mood
  • feelings or worthlessness or sadness
  • expressions of helplessness
  • anxiety
  • loss of interest in daily activities
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • lack of attention to personal hygiene
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irresponsible behavior
  • obsessive thoughts about death or suicide

What can I do to help decrease depression?

You can help feel the magic of the season by working with family and friends in general activities such as:

Shoppting - Holiday shopping can be time consuming, but it is always nice to have a companion.

Vacation - Make it simple or complicated, visit family or even stay in town and see the sights.

Make holiday cookies - Distribute them to neighbors, family and friends.

Decorate - Decorating a house can take some time. Get family, friends or neighbors involved and make a day of it.

Limit holiday parties - Too many parties can be overwhelming. Pick a few favorites to attend.

Pace yourself when wrapping holiday gifts.

Plan an event - Help a family member throw a party, even if it is just a small one.

Add lighting - Adding indoor lights can help get everyone in the season and aid in the relief of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Volunteer - Remember to find something that fits your physical limitations. Visit a children's hospital, feed the homeless. The experience can be fun and humbling.

Make gifts - Making gifts and being thrifty is the new trend. Look online for cost effective and fun gifts to make.

Eat well - Some depression can be caused in whole or in part by lack of good nutrition. Remember that some foods can affect medications and spark flair-ups of symptoms in certain ailments.

Exercise - Try simple exercises and work your way up to more complicated ones over time.

Pamper yourself - A great haircut or hot shave can make you feel wonderful. A pedicure is a bonus for both men and women.

Keep in touch - It is easy to neglect friends throughout your life. Calling your friends and getting together regularly can be a big help. They are a great support system.

Go outside - Cold or warm, sunshine and fresh air are good for the soul.



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