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The holiday season is a festive time, filled with traditions and warm times spent with family and friends. But for many seniors, this joyous time of year can be spoiled by feelings of sadness. Thinking about how quickly time is passing, frustration at not being able to carry on traditions that had always been a part of their holidays, or remembering loved ones that are no longer with them can all contribute to the holiday blues.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Seasonal Depression

Seasonal blues should be taken just as seriously as any other mood disorder. While some melancholy around the holiday season is normal for seniors, outside help may be necessary if the symptoms don’t go away on their own. Keep an eye out for some of these common symptoms of depression:

  • Increased irritability
  • Increased sadness or frequent crying
  • Lack of interest in self care
  • Lack of interest in social interaction
  • Increased complaints of pain
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns

For the Senior: Combatting Holiday Blues

Try some of these tips for battling the blues and making the most of your holiday season:

  • Volunteer. One of the best ways to lift a low mood is by making others happy in a meaningful way. There are numerous opportunities for volunteering in every community; try contacting your local schools or hospitals for ideas. Especially around the holidays, there are so many ways you can help. 
  • Get out more. Spending time in places or with people you love can help you feel better. Taking walks with a friend or family member is a great way to get some sunshine, exercise, and reconnect with loved ones.
  • Take care of your health. Your physical health plays an enormous role in your mental state. Be sure that you are getting enough sleep and try to eat healthy during the holiday season. Drink responsibly – overindulging will only make you feel worse.
  • Be understanding of yourself. It’s okay not to feel joyous during the holidays. Life doesn't have to be a Hallmark movie. Talk about your feelings when you can, and let go of the guilt.

For the Caregiver: Helping a Loved One Feel Better

  • Include them in the holiday preparations and parties. One of the best ways to help a senior feel better is by getting them involved in the excitement and celebrations. Bake holiday cookies with them, help them prepare a cherished holiday recipe, or offer to drive them to events that they can no longer attend alone. 
  • Listen to their feelings. Encourage them to talk about passed loved ones and their traditions and memories of this time of year. Take the time to peruse family photo albums.
  • Plan for down time. The holiday season can be a noisy and hectic time, which can be overwhelming for the elderly. Plan for quiet time when they can relax and recharge amidst the holiday hullabaloo.
  • Get their caregivers involved. The joyousness of the holidays can be muted, or even nonexistent, when you're in rehab or long term care during that time. Your loved one may be feeling disconnected, especially if it's their first holiday in the facility. Ask their caregivers to keep an eye on them and be extra loving during this time. At Regency Nursing Centers, our incredible nurses, CNAs, and therapists keep the holiday spirit going for each and every resident.
  • Get help. If the symptoms persist or seem to be getting worse, they may need professional help to fight the depression. Encourage your loved one to seek treatment with a psychotherapist who specializes in geriatric care. A combined plan of therapy and medication can do wonders for the quality of life of a depressed senior.

 

The holidays are a time of family togetherness. Regardless of political, cultural, or religious ideology, caring people put aside their differences to spend time with their family and loved ones. 

One of the biggest concerns people have before holiday parties is making conversation with family members. If you have a relative who aggresively brings politics into every conversation, for example, you might feel uncomfortable talking with them. But since this isn't a politics blog, that's not what we're going to talk about today. 

Talking With Elderly Loved Ones

If you'll be spending some time with an elderly loved one in the next few weeks, you may be feeling some anxiety about it. Many elderly people become less communicative then they've been in the past, or maybe they've never been chatty. They may have the beginnings of dementia, or advanced hearing loss, making it hard to hold a conversation with them. 

Assuming your loved one is intellectually aware and able to talk, here are some great conversation starters to enhance your holidays—or any day:

  • Do you have a favorite book you would recommend to others? Why do you love it?
  • If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • What's your favorite song or singer, and why?
  • What's your favorite movie or show of all time, and why?
  • If time, money, strength, or ability were no object, what would you want to do?  
  • In your opinion, what's the best age to be?
  • How did you meet your spouse? 
  • How did you choose your children’s names?
  • What's the hardest thing you've ever done?
  • What’s the best advice your parents gave you? Did you listen to it?
  • Who's the person you admire most? Who's the person who inspires you the most?
  • What's your favorite joke?
  • What’s something in your life that you are really good at?  
  • Did you ever do anything really embarrassing? 
  • What moment in history do you most vividly remember?
  • What are you  the most proud of in your life?
  • Did you ever have an embarrassing moment you can laught about now?
  • What is the hardest lesson you have ever learned?
  • What piece of advice do you have for the next generation?
  • What do you hope people remember about you?

Asking these questions, listening to the responses, and thoughtfully responding is the greatest gift you can give to your elderly loved one. In addition, it will take care of those holiday worries about long awkward silences between you and your elderly loved one.

 

www.wellness.com just uploaded our fantastic new article regarding visiting a loved on in a senior care facility.

Click on this link, to be directed to the article.

 

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