Seniors May Need Help Overcoming Holiday Blues

Experts offer tips to help lift spirits, recognize signs of depression

Please note: This article was published more than one year ago. The facts and conclusions presented may have since changed and may no longer be accurate. And "More information" links may no longer work. Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional.

SATURDAY, Nov. 28, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- For many seniors, the holiday season can trigger melancholy as they think about lost loved ones, struggle with health issues or worry about money problems, according to the American Geriatrics Society.

To help overcome the seasonal blues, the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging offers the following advice:

  • Get out and socialize or invite family and friends over. Those who find it hard to get around should ask relatives and others for help traveling to parties and events.
  • Volunteering can help improve mood. Contact the United Way or call local schools or religious organizations to ask about opportunities nearby.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol because it can actually lower your spirits.
  • Accept the fact that many people feel blue during the holidays and there is nothing wrong with not being "merry."
  • Talking to someone about your feelings may help you understand the reasons why you feel sad.
  • Watch for warning signs of depression. While holiday blues are temporary and mild, depression is more serious. Signs of depression include: persistent sadness; lack of interest; frequent crying; changes in appetite, weight or sleep; constant feelings of fatigue, restlessness, worthlessness, or guilt; suicidal thoughts.
  • If you're depressed, contact your health-care provider. Depression is treatable.

The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging also offers tips for people with older loved ones who experience sadness during the holidays:

  • Invite them out and to gatherings. Remember to take into account their needs, such as transportation or special diets.
  • Lend a hand by offering to help with shopping and preparations for get-togethers in their homes.
  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Acknowledge their sadness, including a sense of loss if family or friends have died or moved away.
  • Suggest your loved one talk with a health-care provider. Many older people don't realize when they're depressed. Let your loved one know depression is a medical illness and there's no shame in having it.

More information

Mental Health America has more about holiday depression and stress.

SOURCE: American Geriatrics Society, news release, Nov. 19, 2009

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