Fighting Depression in Seniors After the Holidays
For weeks leading up to the holidays, and for many days after, many people feel joy in stepping away from their daily routines and spending quality time with loved ones. But as the holidays end and the new year begins, the excitement fades, and it's not uncommon to start feeling sad or even depressed.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64 percent of people report feeling post-holiday sadness. For some, this sadness is triggered by financial stress from overspending during the holidays or physical fatigue from continually being on the go. For many of us, as we get back into our routine, the sadness subsides. However, for some, the sadness lingers and can be a sign of a more serious form of depression.
Depression in Seniors
Depression in seniors may present itself differently than in young adults. Seniors may show signs of extreme sadness or disconnection from loved ones, but seniors with depression often suffer from sleep troubles, irritability, or confusion. Many factors contribute to depression, but a family history of depression and sudden stress, such as losing a loved one, are the biggest triggers. Seniors suffering from serve medical conditions like cancer or who take certain medications may also exhibit signs of depression.
Tips for Managing Depression Symptoms
Depression is a common but serious mood disorder and is not an ordinary sign of aging. While you can take steps to reduce depression symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about how you're feeling, especially if symptoms keep you from daily activities such as sleeping and eating.
- Set up a routine. Routines create a sense of stability and control, which can reduce anxiety and depression. Set up a morning or night routine for you to follow each day. Your routine doesn't have to include many steps but should consist of activities you enjoy doing. For example, a morning routine could be waking up, walking around the neighborhood, and then coming home to make coffee before a shower. The key to a successful routine is simplicity and consistency, so be sure to create a routine you can commit to and want to do each day.
- Keep yourself active. Exercise is a natural energy boost and releases chemicals in your brain to make you feel good. Exercise also keeps your body healthy and reduces your chances of developing physical conditions that can cause depression. Set aside time each day to do something active for at least 30 minutes. You can go for a walk, dance, ride a bike, do yoga, or practice Tia Chi.
- Eat well-balanced meals. There's a close relationship between what you eat and how you feel. When you eat healthy food, your gastrointestinal tract fills with "good" bacteria. This, in turn, produces dopamine and serotonin in your brain, which puts you in a good mood. To support these good moods, substitute processed foods and sugary treats with fresh produce and homecooked meals. Also, be aware of the liquids you drink. Stay away from sodas and energy drinks high in sugar. Instead, drink plenty of water or 100 percent fruit juices.
- Maintain strong social connections. Loneliness and social isolation can lead to depression in seniors. To combat loneliness, it's essential to maintain strong social connections. Schedule reoccurring lunch dates with friends and family or find a meeting for a hobby that interests you, such as a book club.
- Talk to your doctor about medications. A side effect of some medicines may be depression. If you've started a new medication recently, talk to your doctor about how you're feeling. You can also talk to your doctor about medications that can help you manage your depression, especially if you’re feeling unmotivated to do simple tasks.
- Hire an in-home caregiver. If you believe you or a loved one suffers from depression, the Visiting Angels' compassionate team can help. The trained caregivers with Visiting Angels can help monitor your loved one's mood and alert you about any concerns such as extreme mood swings, lack of appetite, or irritability. Caregivers also provide companionship, reducing a senior's feelings of loneliness, a contributing factor to depression in seniors. Our Atlanta East office serves those in Atlanta, Buckhead, Decatur, Vinings, and the surrounding areas. If you'd like to learn more about our services, give us a call at 404.358.5877.
If you are thinking of harming yourself, seek immediate help from a trusted loved one or doctor. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255.