Battling the Holiday Blues

For most of us, this is the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, for many seniors, it’s the worst. 

“Instead of joy and excitement, the holidays can trigger bouts of sadness and loneliness for seniors – especially if they live alone,” said Teresa Steinfatt, vice president of business performance at the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN). “During the holidays, feelings for lost loved ones and family members who live far away are often magnified. They also may struggle with shopping, decorating, baking, and other traditional activities, which reminds them that they’re getting older and frailer.”

While the holidays may not be what they used to be, it’s important that your aging loved one knows that there’s still plenty to be thankful for. Below are some tips to help keep their spirits bright this holiday season.

Make communication a priority

Nothing beats an in-person visit, but if that’s not possible, regular phone calls or video chats can make a world of difference in the life of a senior. Ask them about traditions and memories from past holidays and encourage friends and family members to do the same.

Involve them in holiday activities

Take your loved one Christmas shopping or drive them around to enjoy the holiday lights. Also be sure to include them in family activities like decorating, baking, and writing Christmas cards to family and friends.

Revive traditions

Think of stories they’ve shared or things you used to do growing up and bring those traditions back to life.  

Make their favorite foods or treats

Whether it’s cornbread stuffing or rhubarb pie, including your aging loved one’s favorite food in the holiday meal will make them feel special.

Break out the family photo albums

Spend some time looking through photos of loved ones and holidays past. While there may be a few tears, there will also be a lot of joy and laughter.

Experts say that, in most cases, the holiday blues are temporary and should go away after the start of the new year. However, if the symptoms persist, it could be a sign of depression, and that treatment is needed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should watch for:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t get better – even with treatment. 

“At HCAN, we know that time and distance may prevent you from spending as much time with your senior loved one as you want,” Steinfatt said. “If you need us to help, we’ll be there. Our caregivers can provide much-needed companionship during the holidays and beyond, and we’ll let you know if we’re seeing signs that your senior has more than the holiday blues.”

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