While the holidays are often a joyous time for most people, some older adults struggle during the holidays. The constant festivities may remind older adults of lost loved ones, shed light on new illnesses and increase a sense of loneliness.
A New Normal
Getting older is a time of transition – to a “new normal.” This new normal can be brought on by new medical problems, chronic pain, limited mobility and dementia. Even if they are surrounded by loved ones, older adults can feel alone because of the memories of friends and family that have passed. Their social circles are always changing, especially with retirement or a move to a less independent level of living.
Sadness During the Holidays
When you see an older adult that is struggling with sadness during the holidays, reach out to them and try to break up their isolation. Every individual is unique and will have a different reason for not being “jolly” during the season. Spend time with them and learn about what is bringing them down. It may be that the party is too loud or they feel that they are a bother. Try to break down these barriers and help them feel welcome and loved.
Some older adult may not want to be included in the holiday activities for many reasons, but be sure to still reach out to them. A phone call or a written card can go a long way.
Sometimes grief can become depression. Depression is a serious condition, but it is treatable.
Signs that Are Indicative of Depression include:
- Consistent sad, tearful mood
- Loss of interest in the things they used to like
- Weight loss/gain
- Increased/decreased motor function
- Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
- Recurrent thoughts of death
- Constant fatigue
If you suspect that an older adult in your life has depression, discuss your concerns with their primary care physician. Their physician can rule out any undiagnosed medical conditions and assist the family in the referral to an appropriate mental health expert.
Bringing Love and Joy
During this time of the season, reach out to the older adults in your life to add some holiday cheer by inviting them to parties, sending them a card and showing them that you care. You may find that it actually brings more love and joy into your life!
- Family Medicine, Family Practice: Geriatric Medicine, Geriatrics, Internal Medicine