Regardless of age, the holidays are always a time of year when stress and anxiety can lead to depression. And depression can sometimes have a negative effect on your physical health. For many seniors, depression is a problem that needs to be addressed because they are often dealing with other age-related health issues.
At any given time, roughly six million people over the age of 65 suffer from depression, but few of them seek treatment for the condition. When compounded with chronic health issues, the loss of the people who were close to them, and feelings of isolation, it can make depression even worse for seniors, especially during the holidays.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell for caregivers or relatives when their senior loved one is depressed and simply hiding the outward appearance of their depression. However, there are signs you can look for, such as having trouble sleeping – or conversely, sleeping too much. Someone who is depressed may also complain of having low energy and have a hard time getting motivated to get up in the morning.
Other symptoms could include completely losing interest in activities that were once important to them. They may also have trouble focusing on whatever they’re doing, demonstrating a lack of concentration. You may even notice a substantial weight loss due to a diminished appetite.
What causes depression in the elderly?
The holiday season can be demanding for people of any age, with all the cleaning, cooking, entertaining, and shopping people feel they have to do. Plus, at a time when everything you see tells you how happy and joyful you should be, it can have the effect of drawing your focus to the problems that exist in your life.
For many seniors, there are added issues that come solely from aging, such as seeing spouses, friends, and loved ones pass away. It’s also a time in life when people you love, especially grown children and their families, may move to another part of the country, leading to feelings of loneliness. These emotions are often magnified during the holidays.
And in 2020, this holiday season may be especially difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Long-standing traditions are being skipped this year to avoid large gatherings, even among relatives. You may decide to skip taking the entire family out for a nice holiday dinner, or a theater production that you’ve always attended at this time of year. Plus, if you know someone who is sick with coronavirus, you may be worrying about them and their health.
Steps you can take to ease feelings of depression
The most important thing you can do is to understand that it starts with treating yourself well. In other words, be kind to yourself. If you’re feeling emotional because you’re missing people who are close to you, that’s okay. In fact, it’s to be expected. So, don’t feel you have to force yourself to be happy through sheer willpower. Some additional tips include:
Reaching out to people
Look to friends and family members for emotional support if you’re feeling stress and anxiety. Whether this involves placing a phone call to a good friend, or contacting people you know through church or a community organization, it helps just to be in contact with other people. Also, in addition to letting them give you support, offering support in return will help your mood immensely.
It may be tempting with everything going on around us to lash out at someone you care about, or lay a guilt trip on them. This is a good time of year, especially this year, to let those things slide and accept your friends and loved ones for who they are.
Maintain healthy habits
Whatever you’ve been doing to stay healthy – whether it’s watching your diet, getting a little exercise, meditating, or yoga – don’t give in to the temptation to backslide into overindulgence or laziness. If this is something you’ve been focusing on and putting effort into, that kind of backsliding will only make you feel guilty and add to your stress level.