While the holiday season is a festive time for many, chronic health issues, feelings of loneliness and loss of loved ones can aggravate feelings of depression and make the holidays a very difficult time for some older adults. Dr. Samuel Bauzon offers his insight
for the caregivers and family members on how to respond to holiday depression.
Dr. Bauzon sheds some light on how to deal with holiday depression. Depression affects more than 19 million Americans every year, regardless of age, race or gender. I want to stress that depression is not a normal part of the aging process, however, there is a strong likelihood of it when other physical health conditions are present. Symptoms of clinical depression can be triggered by chronic illnesses common in later life, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Recognizing depression in the elderly starts with knowing the signs and symptoms. Some red flags include:
- Expressions of helplessness
- Feelings of worthlessness or sadness
- Lack of attention to personal care and hygiene
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- Irresponsible behavior
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Obsessive thoughts about death and suicide
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
If you are seeing these signs, an appointment with their primary care doctor is encouraged.
There are many things family or caregivers can do to help. This can include:
- Taking time to truly listen – it’s important for them to be able to talk about their feelings and know they’re being heard.
- Plan quiet time between the activities and family visits so they can recharge their batteries.
- Help with specific tasks. Helping an elderly relative carry on an important tradition can mean a lot to them.
- If you can’t visit, call.
And don’t forget to take care of yourself. The holidays can be hard on caregivers, too.