Holiday blues – depression in the elderly.

The holiday season is quickly coming upon us. There are several things you can do to help your elderly loved one through this difficult time.  If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one, you may notice a change in their mood as the holidays approach.  The holiday season offers many opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends.

What causes depression in the elderly?

The elderly population is at an increased rise for depression during the holidays.  It is not the actual holiday that causes this depression, but the fact that holidays tend to bring up memories of earlier, happier times. During the holidays, older adults tend to feel the passing of time, as well as the absence of parents, siblings and friends who have died, and the distance of loved ones who have moved away. 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.

Depression in the elderly is difficult to diagnose and is frequently untreated. The symptoms may be confused with a medical illness, dementia, chronic pain, complications of an illness or memory loss, or malnutrition due to a poor diet. Many older people will not accept the idea that they have depression and refuse to seek treatment.


Symptoms to look for in depression might include:

You may notice unusual signs of fatigue or sadness or perhaps limited interest in the holiday season.

•Depressed or irritable mood; Feelings of worthlessness or sadness

•Expressions of helplessness


•Loss of interest in daily activities

•Loss of appetite and or weight loss

•Lack of attending to personal care and hygiene


•Difficulty concentrating

•Irresponsible behavior

•Obsessive thoughts about death; Talk about suicide

How do you know if it is depression or dementia?

Depression and dementia share similar symptoms. A recent article on gives some specific differences:

Treating depression in older people.  Once the cause of depression is identified, a treatment program can be implemented.  Treatment may be as simple as relieving loneliness through visitations, outings and involvement in family activities.

In more severe cases antidepressant drugs have been known to improve the quality of life in depressed elderly people. Cognitive therapy sessions with a counselor may also be effective.  You can make the difference in and remove the Holiday Blues from seniors suffering from depression.

How can you help an elderly, or loved one during the holidays?

As a caregiver or family member of a depressed older person, make it your responsibility to get involved. You can make a significant difference and remove or lessen the holiday blues for seniors suffering from depression.    The winter holiday season (and the colder months which accompany it) can intensify feelings of sadness which aging seniors often experience.  The elder person generally denies any problems or may fear being mentally ill, which can make it that much harder to know if the elder person is having any issues. You can help the elder person feel the magic of the season and feel loved by including them in general activities such as:

  • Making holiday cookies – Including them with helping making, decorating and baking.
  • Church Activities – If you or the elderly person is a church goer, churches are filled with holiday activities that need volunteers.
  • Seasonal Crafts – So much to be made in such a little time.
  • Decorating – Let them help decorate and make it fun for them.
  • Gift Making – Making gifts and being thrifty is the new thing.  You can find great ideas on
  • Introduce foods with better nutrition – Some depression can be caused in whole or in part by lack of good nutrition. Introduce and share food with the elderly that are high in Vitamins and Minerals. Remember that some foods can affect medications and spark flair ups of symptoms in certain ailments.
  • Friends – It is easy to neglect friends throughout your life, the same happens with the elderly, especially those who rely on a caregiver. Calling their friends and getting them together regularly can be a big help. No one relates better to the elderly, then the elderly. They are a great support system and can recommend items and products to each other to help with their needs.
  • Feelings – It can be as simple as asking how are you feeling internally? Not everyone can tell you, most elderly don’t want to burden their caregivers and loved ones. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.
  • Fresh Air and Sunshine – Cold or warm, sunshine and fresh air is good for the soul, it also helps with Vitamin D

Thank you to the source: