The holiday season is usually full of traditions that serve as foundations in many families. Because of these family ties mental health professionals see an increase in depression in seniors. According to the National Institute on Aging, loneliness and social isolation are the most common cause of depression in senior citizens. Older adults are more likely to suffer from subsyndromal depression which may not meet all the criteria for major depression, but if left untreated it can progress to major depression and a high suicide risk. Depression is classified as a mood disorder. Statistics show that 2 million of the 34 million Americans over age 65 struggle with this, yet only 3% receive treatment. There are signs and symptoms that an older person you know may be struggling with depression and ways we can help them through it to a better quality of life. The post holiday blues are especially difficult for seniors.
Older adults tend to present with symptoms like a persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood. They can have feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness. Irritability, restlessness, or having trouble sitting still, loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, and loss of energy or chronic fatigue. They may have trouble sleeping or want to sleep all the time. They may lack the energy to shower or brush their teeth. They may not want to eat and have difficulty concentrating. Older adults may have a difficult time describing how they feel. In addition, depression was not a diagnosis when these adults were coming of age and can be perceived as a character weakness instead of an illness that needs treatment. Unfortunately, the suicide rate in adults age 80-84 is more than twice that of the general population.
Having a consistent caregiver can help in many ways, they can help keep a senior connected to the holiday traditions they love and miss. At Avid Home Care caregivers are encouraged to help their clients stay involved. Many clients love hearing about the caregivers’ children. A dedicated aide can help connect with family living far away by assisting with something like facetime calls that feel closer than a phone call. Many of the staff will happily get involved with putting up a Christmas tree or other decorations. Having a caregiver can help seniors participate in activities like a drive to look at holiday lights, attend a church service, and assist in sending gifts to family. Helping them stay involved in the holidays can be very cathartic in improving their mood and can help prevent the post holiday blues. Take a walk outside and enjoy the cooler weather, sunshine increases serotonin which plays a big part in depression. Even if the holidays aren’t what you would like them to be, you are not alone. An adored caregiver gives a lonely senior something to look forward to all year long.