A man is holding a wrapped gift to avoid holiday depression

Handling Holiday Depression Among Seniors

The classic song tells us the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year.” While for the majority of us that’s undeniably true, for far too many people this can be a most depressing time of the year. Especially for members of the senior population, instead of being a time to celebrate the past and make new memories, this season can be a time of sadness, as older people obsess over family and friends who’ve passed away, their own declining health, and lament the fact that they’re getting older. If you’re a family member, friend or caregiver for an aging loved one, you may have noticed a change in their behavior – such as sadness, fatigue or lower levels of interest in the holidays and life in general.

For some people, dramatic life changes (including moving out of a long-time residence or a life-altering illness or injury) can trigger holiday depression that is exacerbated around the holidays. Here at South Coast Post Acute, we are especially diligent this time of year to be aware of behavioral changes in our community members.

Of course, sometimes such changes can be attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can impact people during certain times of the year. Although some medical professionals were initially skeptical SAD was for real, many now admit it’s a common disorder, affecting almost 10-percent of the adult population in particularly cold areas such as New Hampshire.

If it can’t be attributed to SAD, here are a few of the factors that can lead to holiday depression in the elder population:

  • Chronic pain or complications of an illness
  • Loss of a spouse, companion or close friend
  • A move to a care facility
  • Memory loss
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise

And here are some warning signs to watch out for in a family member or friend:

  • Feelings of sadness or worthlessness
  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Unexplained anxiety
  • Listlessness and lack of attention to regular hygiene and personal care
  • Obsessive thoughts about death, the meaningless of life and suicide
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Increasingly irresponsible behavior

There are a few ways to help an older person deal withholiday  depression:

  • Something as simple as more frequent visitations, outings and family involvement
  • In severe or prolonged cases, antidepressant drugs have proven to be effective
  • Cognitive therapy sessions with a counselor can also help
  • Include the person in activities like making seasonal crafts, caroling, and shopping
  • Sincerely ask how they’re doing, and pay close attention to their answers

The Number One objective of South Coast Post Acute is to provide the highest-quality rehabilitative care possible.There is a reason why we are home to so many many amazing rehabilitation stories: we treat patients like family. It’s a combination of our expert staff, exceptional care and leading-edge technology that creates an outstanding rehabilitation experience. Our commitment and Spirit of Caring make South Coast Post Acute the recovery center of choice for patients, providers, and caregivers. If you have questions or concerns about a loved one, contact us today.

Real People. Remarkable Care. South Coast Post Acute.

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