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Beating the Holiday Blues

Beating the Holiday Blues
by Tawnya Creager, Community Outreach Director
Easter Seals Adult Day Services

The holiday season - Thanksgiving through New Year's Day - is usually a time of joy and celebration, but for the elderly it can also be a time of stress. In an NBC Dateline and Prevention Magazine pole, 41% of those surveyed rated the holiday season as "very stressful"- on par with a job interview! While the rest of the world is busy shopping, planning family gatherings, and attending festivities, the elderly can be easily overlooked. The National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in people 65 and older to be a major health problem, with some six million seniors suffering from late-life depression, which is often magnified during the holidays.
According to ElderCarelink, the nation's leading eldercare referral service reports the week after Thanksgiving generates more requests from worried family members than any other weeks of the year. Depression in the elderly can be triggered by a number of factors, including physical limitations, declining health, retirement, isolation from family and friends, a change in living arrangements, and financial constraints. All of these factors are heightened during the holidays when the feeling of isolation becomes more apparent.
Older adults may have to relinquish their role as head of the family as they become guests rather than hosts of family gatherings. They may feel alone or left out. Geographical distance between family members can also be more difficult to cope with during the holidays. Perhaps most importantly, the holiday season can trigger a mourning period for those who have lost a spouse or other loved one. Family caregivers and other helping professionals need to be able to prevent, recognize, and manage depression in the elderly before it escalates.
Signs of depression in the elderly include:
~Loss of the will to live; questioning the value of their life
~Change (increase or decrease) in appetite
~Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping more or less than usual)
~Withdrawal from social activities
~Extreme worry or excessive crying
There are things you can do to turn their holiday blues around here are some helpful tips:
~Keep the holiday expectations realistic and manageable. Everyone during the hurried preparations will sometimes feel stressed and sad.
~Don't focus on past holidays. While lifelong traditions may help to make the holiday special family traditions change. Try to start a new tradition!
~ In the hustle and bustle, doing something special for those less fortunate is fulfilling and releases tension. For many seniors, volunteerism is an especially important and valuable way to stay connected with the community.
~Plan ahead and stay structured. Think realistically!
~When missing loved ones, acknowledge the hurt. Talk about fond memories and remember the good times.
Time is always in short supply during the holidays, and most of us tend to overextend ourselves - leading to added stress and anxiety. It is too easy to overlook elderly family members and friends during this busy time of year, and they may not always be able to verbalize why they are feeling sad or depressed. Staying active during the holiday season helps to remind everyone that they are important and vital members of the family. Remember if you suspect that your loved one has more than a case of the "Holiday Blues" you may want to schedule a visit with your doctor.

Some information contained in this article was gathered from Article submitted by Tawnya Creager, Community Outreach Director for Easter Seals Adult Day Services.

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