For many elderly persons there are a lot of things to look forward to when the holiday season begins: celebrating the season with family and friends, creating new memories with loved ones, reminiscing about days gone by, and seeing the excitement on little faces as they tear into their presents under the tree.
Some people, particularly seniors, have a hard time mustering up their holiday cheer.
While the holidays are a wonderful way to close out each year and look forward to the new one, some people, particularly seniors, have a hard time mustering up their holiday cheer.
If you’re caring for an elderly person and find that he or she seems a little blue as the holidays approach, here are a few tips you can use to help them overcome these feelings and enjoy the festive season.
Spend quality time together
Try to spend as much time as possible with the elderly person you’re caring for before, during, and after the holidays. The holiday season can be a lonely time for seniors (especially if they are living in a long-term care facility) and can bring back memories of family and friends who are no longer here. Your holiday visits will help them create new memories and new bonds with you and your family.
Get their input regarding holiday plans
Involve your elderly parent in your plans for festivities. For example, asking someone their opinion on the menu for Christmas dinner may seem trivial to you, but it could mean the world to a senior who may be feeling a bit down or neglected. You can also help them beat the holiday blues in other simple ways by getting them involved such as: asking for their help in decorating the Christmas tree, helping them pick out and shop for presents for other members of the family, or even just going through family photo albums and remembering past Christmases.
Create new holiday memories and traditions with them
Try to find senior-friendly holiday activities in which they are easily able to participate, such as window shopping at the mall during an off-peak time, or visiting their old friends. Activities that involve the whole family, such as Sunday lunch at home or a favourite restaurant, will be especially meaningful and memorable. Invite your parent along to any school holiday programs that your children or grandchildren may be involved in. The excitement leading up to the day of the performance will help them in overcoming their holiday blues and any lingering feelings of loneliness. It will give them something to anticipate.
Host a small gathering for them
If possible, suggest having a small holiday gathering of your parents’ friends at your home or facility where they live. You can help them with the invitations and planning the menu, but make it clear that this is their party and you will be taking direction from them. Make this a family activity by enlisting the help of other family members, especially any older children or teenagers, to help in the preparations, serving, and clean-up. In addition to creating new holiday memories with their grandparents, the younger generation will learn the value of spending time with and doing something nice for their elders.
Get them moving
Encourage the elderly to stay active with light exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Physical activity is a great way to beat the holiday blues, especially if they have someone to do the activity with. If 30 minutes is too much, try starting with five minutes of easy stretches or walking around the house, and gradually adding more minutes as they build up their stamina. Remember, a little exercise is better than none. Exercising together creates accountability and builds motivation – and has an added benefit of bonding through a shared experience.
Other holiday depression times
Christmas isn’t the only holiday in the year that can trigger the holiday blues in seniors; any holiday or special occasion can cause loneliness and depression in a senior person because they tend to bring up memories of family and friends who are no longer alive, or have moved too far away to easily visit. The nice thing about these tips for overcoming holiday blues is that they can be used all year round, during any season, to help combat loneliness and prolonged sadness in a senior.
One thing to note is that if a senior is experiencing the blues during the holidays or at any time of the year, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re clinically depressed. However, depression is not a normal part of aging, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of senior depression, and how to deal with it.
If you see prolonged symptoms of depression or signs of depression in the elderly person you’re taking care of, or if their behaviour has you concerned for their well-being, encourage them to see the doctor in case medical intervention is required.
What are some of your tips to help an elderly parent or senior adult in your care get over the holiday blues? Let us know in the comments below.
Still need to talk with someone about depression?
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To speak with someone about how to overcome holiday depression in the elderly, please call Elizz at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549). We are here for you!
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