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When the Holidays Bring On the Blues

It's a sad season for many elderly, but friends and family can help

SUNDAY, Dec. 18, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The joy of the holiday season may be tinged with blue for some older adults, who can miss loved ones or start thinking about how quickly time has passed. Many may also have health or money worries.

But the American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging offers the following advice on how older people can cope with holiday melancholy:

  • Get out and about. Invite family and friends over and ask them for help traveling to parties and events. Volunteering is another good way to improve mood.
  • Go easy on the alcohol, which can lower mood.
  • Accept sadness. There's nothing wrong with not feeling jolly during the holidays.
  • Talk with someone. Discussing those blue feelings can help increase understanding.
  • Recognize depression's warning signs. These include sadness that won't lift, loss of interest or pleasure, changes in appetite or weight, sleeping much more or less than normal, crying often, feeling restless or tired all the time, feeling worthless or helpless or guilty, slowed thinking, thoughts of death or suicide.
  • If you think you have depression, see your doctor.

There's also advice for people with older relatives or friends who seem down:

  • Invite them out to do things and to get-togethers. Take into account their needs for transportation or special diets.
  • Lend support by offering to help them with shopping or preparing for gatherings in their homes.
  • Be a good listener and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Acknowledge difficult feelings, such as the sense of loss if family or friends have died or moved away.
  • Watch for signs of depression and, if necessary, encourage them to talk with their doctor.

More information

The National Mental Health Association has more about holiday depression and stress.

SOURCE: American Geriatrics Society for Health in Aging, news release, Dec. 7, 2005
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