While many are enjoying the holidays with family get-togethers, feasts and fun traditions, many seniors find this can be the most depressing of all seasons. Missing loved ones, or having family hundreds of miles away while struggling to decorate, shop and prepare a meal can be especially lonely.
"The holidays can be tough on seniors because many have lost people they loved, and they aren't as mobile to visit friends and family," says David Forman, president of Visiting Angels, a local home care company that provides living assistance services and companionship for seniors and disabled adults. "Hopefully their depression is temporary, and lifts by the new year," he said.
Holiday blues versus senior depression
Holiday blues are also associated with the time change as daylight hours become shorter. If the blues continue after the season, it could be a warning sign of depression. Senior depression is often mistaken for other age-related issues, and older adults may not express sadness, so it's important to consider other signs.
Common signs of senior depression include:
- Lack of appetite
- Extreme fatigue or excessive sleeping
- Problems concentrating
- Antisocial behavior – may stop doing normal things such as going to church
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
- Being angry – sarcastic and critical about others' joy of the season.
Forman says companionship is essential during the holidays. "When family or friends don't live nearby, or seniors don't have any way to visit, a home care angel can make a joy-saving companion," says Forman. "The presence of a helpful caregiver nearly always cures loneliness, and enabling someone to become mobile, and safely enjoy their favorite activities can cure the blues."
Beat the holiday blues
Whether it's a few hours a week or several hours a day, a home care companion can help:
- Encourage exercise; various studies reveal that staying physically active not only makes people feel good but has the same effect on mood and brain chemistry as antidepressants
- Keep alcohol use to a minimum by creating other festive drinks such as eggnog, flavored coffees or hot chocolate
- Write and send personalized cards to family and friends
- Shop for gifts and help wrap.
Those who don't know what to get Grandma or Grandpa for Christmas might consider hiring a home companion. Caregivers also cook, clean, drive seniors to doctors and stores, and help decorate. For more information, call 302-329-9475 or go to www.visitingangels.com/sussexde/home.