Does a Senior Have Depression or the Holiday Blues?
As the air gains a chill and the twinkling lights start to shine, we know it’s time to prepare for the holidays. This jolly season brings plenty of joy and cheer, but it can also bring a host of stressful triggers that may impact your senior loved one.
With all the shopping sprees, cleaning spurts, financial obligations and obligatory visits, anxiety levels can quickly switch into overdrive, leaving seniors with a case of the holiday blues.
If you notice your loved one is feeling down in the dumps, it’s important to note all their symptoms to discover the cause.
Common Depression Symptoms
According to the experts at The Mayo Clinic, typical signs of depression in older adults include:
- Changes in personality
- Struggles with memory
- Physical aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of socialization
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of energy
Is it Depression or the Holiday Blues in a Senior?
Experts say comparing the holiday blues to depression is like comparing a cold to pneumonia. It’s important to understand the differences.
If your senior loved one experiences symptoms severe enough to decrease their overall happiness and causes them to withdraw from activities and social events, you should seek medical attention. These behaviors are often signs of depression. Nearly 16% of adults suffer from it and the holidays can be a trigger.
Questions to Ask to Determine What’s Ailing a Senior
If you can’t determine whether your loved one’s symptoms are related to depression or the holiday blues, ask yourself the following questions:
When did their symptoms begin?
If your loved one started showing signs of depression as the holiday madness began, it could be related to the season. The added stimulation and pressure during this time of year can increase anxiety in seniors.
What is triggering the symptoms?
Does your loved one live alone? Social isolation is a common factor that leads to depression. The holidays can be especially tough.
Is your aging family member quickly agitated when you take them to the department store on a busy holiday shopping weekend? Crowds of hurried shoppers can create anxiety that may lead to the holiday blues.
The best way to take note of potential triggers and spot a trend is to create a logbook. By tracking behaviors and their potential link to activities, you are one step closer to understanding the cause behind your loved one’s symptoms.
Are these symptoms seasonal?
It’s best to start a logbook when you first notice depression-like symptoms in your senior loved one. Track changes in their personality throughout the season and note if these symptoms change.
If the symptoms stick around after the holidays are over, it’s best to consult with a professional and seek treatment.
Four Tips to Manage the Holiday Blues
If your aging loved one is feeling down this season, there are steps you can take to help them to improve their mood:
- Communicate with your loved one more often.
If you notice a change in your senior loved one’s personality, talk to them. They may open up and tell you they are feeling lonely. The more you talk, the more you can understand what is causing these negative symptoms. If you live too far away to do this in person, consider using video chat services like Skype.
- Set a family budget.
Many seniors are on a fixed income and the holiday expectations can play a huge role in anxiety levels. Squash the stress before it begins and set a family budget for gifts. Take into consideration everyone’s finances and diminish burdens by setting clear boundaries early on.
- Create a schedule for family events.
As seniors age, keeping up the hurried pace of the holidays can be challenging for older adults. It is stressful enough sometimes just trying to keep up with routine daily activities. When the holiday chaos is thrown into the mix, it adds another layer of uncertainty. To help, create a schedule that you can print out and share with your senior loved one. It will give them peace of mind they aren’t forgetting about something and allow them to properly plan for each occasion.
- Keep health in mind.
It’s easy to indulge during the holidays, but unhealthy habits may contribute to the holiday blues in a senior loved one. Sugar and alcohol can trigger depression-like symptoms. Avoid these negative outcomes by offering healthy options at family functions and limiting alcoholic drinks.
The holidays can be an overwhelming time for older adults. By staying observant and helping your senior loved one manage the holiday rush, you can help overcome their holiday blues and create a joyous season for the entire family.