Nearly everyone loves the Holidays. Yet, as much as we all want to be happy during these festive times, many people, especially our elder population, may be sad, blue, or simply depressed. There are numerous reasons for this situation:
- Friends may have passed away recently
- Family lives too far away and must forego the long trip “home”
- Certain financial limitations
- Personal loss of the mobility
- Personal health conditions
Mental Health America estimates that nearly 2+ million folks aged 65 or older will suffer from Holiday depression this year. And, with the recession we are in, poor financial conditions for many, numerous people without jobs, that figure could certainly to be even higher this Holiday season.
Many believe that depression in the elderly is caused by the normal aging process or for many of the reasons listed above. Although this can certainly be true in some cases, it seems that most depression is the result of chronic or serious illness (which can often lead to many other symptoms). It is important to see and acknowledge the signs of depression in your elder loved one — early recognition and treatment is the best cure for Holiday depression.
Below are several sign of depression pulled from The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation (www.gmhfonline.org):
- Persistent sadness
- Withdrawal from regular social activities
- Slowed thinking or response
- Lack of energy or interest in things that were once enjoyable
- Excessive worry about finances or health
- Frequent tearfulness
- Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
- Weight changes
- Pacing and/or fidgeting
- Changes in sleep patterns (inability to sleep or excessive sleep)
- Inability to concentrate
- Staring off into space (or at the television for prolonged periods of time)
Of course depression is treatable, but time and patience is required to be successful or even helpful. It is important to have your loved one examined by a trained professional, preferably a Geriatric Psychiatrist, who can best identify symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis, and provide appropriate methods of treatment to follow. Until that occurs, you can make some inroads with your elder by being honest, sincere and discuss how difficult the holidays can be.
As with many mental illnesses, it all takes time and the patience to wait for the elder to make up their mind that they do need help. In the meantime, see if you can get your loved one to participate in some holiday activities, even just the dinner might be enough to help get him through the day and feel a bit better about himself. Remember, one step at a time . . .