06 Nov 2017
The holiday season can be stressful, especially for seniors. As we get older, families become busy with their daily lives and together time is often overlooked. In many cases, the holidays become a time of depression for seniors, who may have lost loved ones, suffer from chronic health issues, or are unable to travel to visit friends or family.
Fortunately, we can take steps to prevent holiday depression for seniors. With a little awareness and compassion, we can turn this time of year back into a cheerful memory for our elderly loved ones and better our lives as well. Caregivers in senior-care facilities can also play a big part of alleviating holiday depression in seniors.
4 Ways to Prevent Holiday Depression in Seniors
Look Out for Signs of Depression
The first step to preventing holiday depression in seniors is knowing what to look out for. While it’s natural to feel a little blue during the holidays, there is a big difference between temporary sadness and depression.
Be on the lookout for symptoms of depression, like change in appetite or sleeping patterns, fatigue or lack of interest in activities your loved one previously enjoyed. To help gauge their depression, use the Geriatric Depression Scale – a list of yes or no questions that can help you determine the level of depression your family member or tenant may be suffering from.
Plan Outings and Activities
In many cases, senior depression comes about by not having enough to do during the holidays. During a season that’s usually considered busy and cheerful, too much free time can cause seniors to feel as if they are missing out on the joy the season once brought them.
Spend some time with your family member or senior residents by planning holiday-centric activities. Drive through a light festival, make gingerbread houses or take them to complete some holiday shopping. Involve your other family members too, if they are able to join.
Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
If your senior loved one has recently undergone some life changes (the loss of a loved one or relocating to a care facility), they may need some perking up during the traditional season.
Encourage them to share stories from their youth about the holidays and ask them questions to keep them engaged. Look through old photo albums or home videos and share some memories of your own. Rekindling old memories can help seniors cope during this nostalgic season.
Make New Traditions
Many seniors experience sadness during the holidays due to lost traditions. In many cases, the people they may have once celebrated with are no longer here.
To help your loved one, offer trying a new tradition that everyone can enjoy, while still paying respects to those you may have lost. Building new memories will help depressed seniors find joy during what otherwise could have been a bleak season.
The older you get, the more Thanksgiving holidays you experience – and the more you may start to question the meaning of the holiday and what it means to be truly “thankful.” Furthermore, the way people celebrate Thanksgiving has been changing as well, with families living farther apart and sometimes gathering from all across the country for Thanksgiving dinner. With all of the hectic planning that comes with this celebration, however, you can still step back and find meaning and health in Thanksgiving with these ten tips:
Make Thanksgiving preparations a family affair. Involve your kids and grandkids so that you can have the whole family participate, spending time together while easing the cooking and cleaning load off of yourself.
Although the “traditional” view of Thanksgiving involves spending hours in the kitchen preparing the perfect feast from scratch, you may not want to do that, instead opting to spend time with your family. To make that happen, look towards sources of pre-cooked meals, which you can purchase in a grocery store or have delivered to your home.
Make it healthy.
Using all-natural ingredients and avoiding excessive fat or sugar is not just tastier; it also helps improve everyone’s mood and keep your family active and ready to celebrate together, rather than lying around lethargically after the dinner is over.
Make sure to cook your turkey to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and wash your hands after handling raw meat, in order to avoid food-borne illnesses such as salmonella bacteria. Furthermore, avoid food poisoning by storing your food properly in airtight containers after it is cooked.
Leave your schedule open.
Make sure not to overplan your Thanksgiving holiday; leave your schedule free to just relax and enjoy the company of your family and friends.
Stay home on Black Friday.
Avoid the crowds of this early shopping holiday, which only lead to increased stress and negative feelings and have nothing to do with the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
Take a walk.
Enjoy the beautiful fall foliage and brisk air while you can – on the cusp of winter, Thanksgiving is usually a great time to be outdoors.
Embrace the original meaning of the holiday, taking time to reflect upon the things, people, and experiences that you are thankful for.
Pay it forward.
Do something nice for someone else – you will find that it helps you feel happier and brightens the other person’s day.
Mix it up and take a vacation for Thanksgiving, having your dinner on a sunny beach or simply postponing a “traditional” dinner until after your return.