The holidays can bring many families closer together. But for a lot of people, this time of year is anything but joyful. If you’re a caregiver for a senior citizen, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of the holiday blues in older adults. As many as 13.5% of seniors, who require in-home health care, meet the criteria for a depression diagnosis. Unfortunately, the holiday season comes with many unique stressors that can trigger depression in seniors.
Why do the holidays sometimes trigger depression in older adults?
For those who live north of the equator, the holidays take place during a time of year when there is less daylight to be seen. The days are shorter, nights longer, and it’s much colder. These changes in light and seasonal patterns can trigger a type of depression called SAD. As many as 6.8% of adults experience SAD symptoms.
Another reason why the holidays are stressful for seniors is this is the time of year where people naturally reflect on their youth, and the time spent growing up around their family and loved ones of holidays past. But for older folks, many of them have lost numerous family members and friends over the years. The holidays can bring back bittersweet memories and can trigger depression. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are common during the holidays, which can worsen depression symptoms.
Why are seniors more at risk of depression than younger adults?
Seniors are at high risk for depression for a few different reasons. Mainly, having a chronic health condition, such as heart disease or arthritis, increases the risk of depression. Below are the most common signs and symptoms of depression in seniors:
- Changes in mood
- Increased irritability
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Expressions of helplessness
- Increase anxiety
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Weight loss or gain
- Lack of self-care
- Trouble concentrating
- Talking about death or suicide
What can caregivers do?
Recognizing depression in a senior loved one can be difficult for caregivers. Many of the signs and symptoms of depression in seniors look similar to the signs of dementia. If a loved one is exhibiting these signs, it doesn’t matter if they indicate depression or dementia. Either way, your senior loved one needs prompt medical care. A geriatric healthcare specialist can examine your loved one and determine if the cause of their symptoms is depression or dementia.
How is depression in seniors treated?
Depression may be a common illness, but treating depression requires customized treatment. If your senior loved one is diagnosed with depression, several things can work to alleviate their symptoms:
- Counseling sessions with a therapist
- Changes in lifestyle
- Antidepressant medications
- Increased outings, visitations, and group therapy