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Why Elderly Depression Increases During the Holidays

Studies have shown a large percentage of people aged 65 and over experience depression, and The National Institute of Mental Health considers it to be a major public health concern. What is even more concerning is how this depression can deepen in the elderly during the holiday season. Why that happens is believed to be a combination of several factors. The Birmingham elder care experts at Home Care Assistance have put together a list of possible reasons why your senior loved one may become depressed around the holidays.

Seasonal Causes

Seasonal depression is not unusual during the winter months. The lack of daylight, cold temperatures, and slippery weather can leave people stuck inside and feeling trapped. For the elderly this may be even more serious because of the fear of a fall or accident. Look into light therapy to boost your loved one’s melatonin levels and find ways to help him or her get out as much as possible.

Memories of Lost Loved Ones

The holidays are a time to reminisce. While many memories will be pleasant, this time of year can also bring to mind the people your loved one has lost. Parents, spouses, and even children may no longer be around to celebrate with your loved one, which may lead to loneliness and longing for the old days. Helping your loved one stay busy with fun holiday activities can keep him or her more focused on the present rather than the past.

Feelings of Helplessness

People may also feel like a burden during this busy time of the year. The need for others to take care of shopping, baking, or decorating can take away the joy a senior once felt for this special time. This is especially true if your loved one was once the party planner. Encourage your loved one to get involved with holiday planning. Signing Christmas cards, helping with baking, or directing the decorating can keep him or her involved and feeling more useful.

Financial Stress

Depression may also result from the added financial strain that can occur during winter. The cost of heating and higher utility bills reduces the amount of money everyone can spend on the ones they love. This can leave your loved one feeling guilty and worried. Consider giving your loved one gift cards for groceries or paying for his or her heating bill as a Christmas present. Discourage your loved one from feeling guilty by purchasing supplies and helping him or her craft handmade gifts.

Regardless of the cause, it is up to Birmingham caregivers to watch for signs of depression and seek professional help if the problem appears to be serious. These signs include withdrawal from hobbies and activities, the loss of appetite, and a change in sleep patterns. Drug use, attempting to cause self-harm, or fixation on death should be immediately reported to your loved one’s physician for a referral to a specialist.

If your loved one needs a companion to offer emotional support during the holidays and the rest of the year, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our compassionate caregivers are available 24/7 to provide companionship and assist with a wide variety of daily tasks. For more information on live-in and part-time care Birmingham families trust, call one of our knowledgeable Care Managers at 248.283.0835 today.