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Companionship an Antidote to Seniors’ Holiday Blues

Woman baking with her elderly mother during the holidays.
Are there holiday traditions you can still continue? Try to do some of what you’ve always done, like decorating or baking.

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Depression during the holidays is not uncommon for anyone who has lost loved ones and longs for days gone by when unique traditions, reunions and rituals were a rich part of life.

Q. I’m 78 years old and I notice that around the holidays I think more about family and friends who have passed on and I get a little depressed, particularly after all the festivities are over. Is that common, and what can I do?

Yes, your emotions are indeed very common and, according to the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, the holidays can trigger those feelings. Mental health experts say the loss of loved ones is one of the leading causes for people to feel blue, especially during the holidays. Here’s another reason: 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 for some seniors. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

You should first see your doctor. Perhaps it’s time for a physical examination and a medical professional can help you determine whether there are any physical causes for your depression. A doctor can also decide whether you might benefit from the services of a mental health professional.

If the stress of the holidays has stirred feelings of loss or separation and your depression is not deep-seated, the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry recommends that you try to continue with regular activities. Stay with your routine as much as possible. Make sure you keep in regular contact with family and friends. Are there holiday traditions you can still continue?

Try to do some of what you’ve always done, like decorating or baking. Have you lost touch with a hobby that you liked in years past? If so, try to find someone else who might enjoy joining you in your favorite pastime. Exercise, if you are able, also is a great way to stay upbeat and healthy.

Companionship is a wonderful antidote to the holiday blues as well. Perhaps it’s time to make some new friends? Why not check out your local senior center or Area Agency on Aging. Many senior centers have daily meals and activities that you might enjoy. If you’re still in good health, there are plenty of ways to volunteer around the holidays. Call your local Salvation Army or homeless shelter to see where you could assist. Organize a small lunch in your home, or invite a friend for coffee and muffins.

If you’re uncomfortable taking that first step, why not call a non-medical eldercare company such as your local Home Instead® office. Home Instead CAREGiversSM serve as companions to seniors and the company will match your interests with someone of a similar age, if you prefer. Being with others is one of the best ways to ward off the holiday blues.

Last revised: December 28, 2011

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