Dodging Holiday-Related Depression
For most of us, the holidays are a time to gather with friends and family, celebrate, reflect on the past and plan for the future.

As we age, however, the holidays can be a difficult time. Older adults may feel more acutely the passing of time, the absence of parents, siblings and friends who have died, and the distance of loved ones who have moved away.

Traditional reunions and rituals that were observed in the past may not be possible and in their absence, the holidays may seem devoid of meaning.

It's normal to feel subdued, reflective and sad in the face of these losses and changes, but it's also important to make sure holiday-related "blues" don't worsen into full-blown depression.

Some major factors contributing to holiday depression in the elderly are:

  • Financial limitations.
  • Loss of independence.
  • Being alone or separated from loved ones.
  • Failing eyesight (and lessening of the ability to write or read holiday correspondence).
  • Loss of mobility and/or the inability to get to religious services.
Here are some tips to help older people, their caregivers and families to battle the onset and worsening of holiday-related depression:

Use the Telephone

Arranging and engaging in regular phone contact when family members are distant is important to make the elderly individual feel cared for, thought about and loved.

Schedule Regular Visits

Even if it's not possible to visit during the holidays, making regular visits to friends and family in long-term care facilities is also important so that seniors don't feel they have been abandoned and forgotten.

Get Them Involved

On special occasions such as Thanksgiving, try to ensure that an elderly family member or friend is involved in activities or at least is a recipient of well wishes and thoughts by family members and friends.

Find Help Elsewhere

If you're older and family time is not possible, try to find other ways to cope with the holiday blues. Reach out to friends and the community at large for social support, including participating in holiday activities and meals at senior and/or community centers. If possible, volunteer your time helping others.

For more information go to www.gmhfonline.org.