The Pryor Times

December 14, 2012

Elderly depression and the holidays

PRYOR — Holiday depression sometimes affects all of us as we get caught up into planning and attending holiday parties, reacquainting ourselves with old friends, and finding the time to shop for gifts, planning family reunions and get-togethers. However, for many individuals, and most especially seniors, the holidays can be especially sad and depressing.

For many seniors, the holidays are not a time of celebration and joy, but only serve as reminders of how lonely he or she may be, the friends that have passed on, the lack of family get-togethers and an inability to participate in such events. Commonly known as the holiday blues, elderly depression during the holidays affects singles, divorcees, and seniors around the world, and not only during the traditional American holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but other events as well.

Family members and friends are cautioned to be alert to signs of holiday depression among seniors, regardless of whether they live on their own, with family members or in a long-term care facility. Depression is more apparent in seniors who have limited options for travel, or whose family members are scattered over long distances. Some of the most common symptoms of elderly depression during the holidays may include:

• Change in sleeping habits

• Difficulty sleeping

• Apathy or lethargy

• Change of appetite

• Loss of interest in activities

• Loss of interest in socializing

Regardless of whether your elderly parent is in a home or a long-term care facility, children of aging parents can take several steps to ensure the mental health and well-being of their loved ones. Arranging and engaging in regular phone contact when family members are distant is important to make the elderly parent feel cared for, thought about and loved. Scheduling regular visits to long-term care facilities is also important so that seniors don’t feel they have been abandoned and forgotten.

The bottom line is to encourage loved ones to stay active, involved and engaged in family community events whenever possible. These activities don’t have to be big, but can be anything that helps make them feel a sense of belonging and provides them with the ability to continue contributing to family and community well-being, regardless of age.

There are Ombudsman Volunteers from the community who visits with residents in long-term care facilities and help with the loneliness and not feeling forgotten. If you would like to become one these volunteers call: Lahona Young or Elaine Evans, Ombudsman Supervisors at (800) 482-4594.