Wynnewood, PA -- You may love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but for many, it can be a season of sadness and depression. Your joy and happiness often overshadow older adults or seniors where the holidays may cause them depression and sadness.
Have you noticed changes to your loved one's mood as the holidays' approach? Seniors or elderly adults can act differently during the holidays. Adult Children may not notice or realize that their Mom or Dad’s irritability, anger bursts or unexplained tears are signs of depression.
We are all busy, and many of us are quite cheerful through the new year. That cheerfulness can cloud our thoughts when thinking about why Mom or Dad is being withdrawn or abnormally mean. Sometimes we shrug it off and say they are just having a bad day. That may not be the case.
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“We instruct our people to ask questions of the people they support and care for. This time of year can really throw seniors, especially older seniors into depression” says Clark Bonegaardt, owner of Comfort Keepers, an in-home care company. "If we think someone is outside of their normal mindset, we notify their loved one,” stated Bongaardt.
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, nearly 6 million senior Americans experience depression. People over age 65 who may have had a recent health problem are at higher risk. The holidays may be especially challenging to these folks.
Reasons for holiday caused depression in older adults.
Winter blues: In the Northeast, our winter climate can be nasty and depressing to many of us. Weather can play a role in depression and in seniors that are not as mobile as they once were it can be a significant role. Cold, dreary, snowy and icy weather when combined with fewer hours of sunlight and the end of daylight savings time, can lead to seasonal affective disorder a real condition that can have serious consequences. For some people, it can be severe enough that medical intervention is required.
Isolation: Most seniors were once very mobile and even if they didn’t drive their friends would pick them up or stop by. Once they lose the capability to drive or to leave their homes on their own they tend to feel isolated, For many feeling isolated and being lonely or bored can cause depression. Adding holidays may make a senior feel like everyone has someplace to go except them.
Grief and loss: Our loved ones may have lost their spouse or close companion which can cause them to struggle with depression. Facing the holidays without their life mate can be a struggle. Going places and coming home to their empty home especially during the holidays can cause debilitating depression. The merriment of others during the holidays can cause them to think more about the losses that they have faced.
Declining health: Age-related mobility loss, dependency on others and feeling like a burden to those that love them is a source of senior depression year round. The fact that they can’t readily join in holiday travel plans and parties that start later at night exacerbates not only depression but sadness.
Recognize the Signs of Senior Depression.
There are warning signs and indicators for senior depression that need to be monitored. According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation here are symptoms of depression to be watched for:
- Prolonged sorrow and sadness (lasting for more than a few weeks)
- Loss of energy and feelings of weariness
- Withdrawing from favorite hobbies and social activities
- Change in personality or mood
- Easily tearful or quick to anger
- Unintended weight gain or loss
- Problems sleeping—either sleeping too much or too little
- Difficulty concentrating and shortened attention span
- Lack of interest in joining holiday gatherings or family parties
Heading into the holiday season, we all need to be aware and alert to the warning signs of senior depression. Remember, depression and aging do not go hand in hand. Depression is not a regular part of the aging process. Depression can adversely affect a seniors health causing severe health issues and medical treatment.
Part two of this series will be published the week of November 25, 2018