Though the holidays can be joyful, they can also be stressful. For many seniors, the holidays are a time of mixed emotions, when feelings of loss or sadness can become especially pronounced. Financial hardship, loneliness and pressures from family can be acute at this time of year, exacerbating emotional trouble and leading to feelings of depression. Depression can happen to anyone at the holidays, but for seniors, depression poses a particular threat.
Signs of Depression in the Elderly
Signs of depression in the elderly include:
- Fatigue and problems relating to sleeping. Your elderly loved one may complain of being tired, may sleep more than is expected or may have difficulty getting enough sleep.
- Irritability and sadness. You may notice your loved one is more angry, sad, irritable or moody than normal.
- Difficulty making decisions, fearfulness. Your loved one may seem too fearful to make decisions, or may suffer from terrible indecision.
- Unexplained pain. Your elderly loved one may complain of unexplained aches and pains, digestive problems, swelling, redness and even loss of certain functions in the body. Although elderly people are susceptible to a number of painful physical conditions, this pain may seem to have no visible cause. In some cases, people with depression are more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread muscle pain.
What You Can Do
If your elderly loved one is suffering from depression, encourage him or her to get treatment right away. Work with your loved one's home caregiver to ensure that, between the two of you, your loved one has transportation to the doctor, therapist and support groups.
In addition, do what you can to make the holidays a more joyful time for him or her. Here are a few suggestions:
- Include him or her at as many holiday celebrations as you can.
- Reminisce about old memories when spending time together at the holidays.
- Include your elderly loved one in holiday preparations.
- Bake holiday cookies together.
- Take your elderly loved one out for holiday events like parades and events at the local senior center.
- Help your elderly loved one decorate his or her home.
- Work with your elderly loved one's home caregiver to ensure that your loved one will have help wrapping gifts and doing other holiday-related tasks.
Depression impacts the physical health of seniors. It puts them at risk for serious conditions like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, dementia and more. If you believe that your elderly loved one may be depressed, do what you can to ensure that your loved one gets the necessary care and attention to help fix the problem. Click to find out more about home caregivers.