The holidays are typically a time for gathering with family and friends and celebrating traditions. However, for some, especially older adults, the holidays can be a challenging time. Disability or illness may limit participation in holiday events and elders may be grieving multiple losses. Here are some key facts about elders and depression:
- Depression is not a normal part of aging. Though feeling sad from time to time is normal at any age, a clinically depressed person suffers from symptoms than interfere with daily functioning.
- Depression sometimes manifests differently in older adults, with symptoms like fatigue and memory loss/trouble concentrating. Please review our article on Depression in the Elderly for signs, symptoms and risk factors.
- About 2 million older adults suffer from major depression, with another five million suffering from less severe forms of illness. Those most prone to depression are individuals with a family history and inadequate social support. Failing health and substance abuse issues are also significant risk factors.
Here are some general tips on helping seniors, to reduce the risk of isolation and depression. The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation also offers information on depression in elders during the holidays, along with the type of help available and how to talk to someone about your concerns. During the holidays, some of the things you might specifically consider to help elders:
- Make special plans to ensure your elder loved ones or friends are included in holiday celebrations. You may need to bring the celebration to them (or provide transportation), or consider modifying the time or length of the event. Or, perhaps the elder needs assistance from a senior companion/senior concierge service.
- Call and check in regularly.
- Recognize losses. Express condolences for loved ones who have died and take a few moments to reminisce about the person. Practice good listening (during the holidays when you feel hurried, consider setting aside some time to spend with the person when you will not be rushed).
- Give the gift of your time. Plan a special luncheon or just a simple visit over coffee. Take some cookies or a treat to your elderly neighbor. Find out if you can help/visit seniors in a local assisted living or nursing home (and consider doing this throughout the year, not just at holidays).
We’d like to tell you about one special program that is near and dear to our hearts. The Elves for Elders program is a community effort to connect gift givers (elves) to less fortunate seniors (elders). The goal is to provide gifts for seniors who might otherwise be forgotten during the holidays. As explained on the Area Agency on Aging Pasco Pinellas website, “This year (2013) will be the seventh year the Better Living for Seniors (BLS) Resource committee, under the auspices of the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas, Inc. will provide Elves for Elders in Pinellas County. More than 500 seniors receive gifts such as robes, lap blankets, stuffed animals, snacks, clothing, toiletries, and room decorations.” Since the early days of this program, the Aging Wisely team has been actively participating. We have also donated gifts to elders in Hillsborough County, through a similar program there.
Last year, our team facilitated gifts for over 50 elders in the Elves for Elders program. This year we have again been active in the planning and organizing and our office is serving as the north county collection site for gifts. We all enjoy this opportunity to add some holiday cheer to the lives of elders in Pinellas County!
You can read more about the Elves for Elders program here or contact our Senior Care Consultant, Sue Talbott, for more information.
If you know an elder who needs help this holiday season (or any time), let our eldercare experts help. Contact Sue Talbott at 727-447-5845 for a free needs analysis and resources. Our EasyLiving home caregivers offer a wide range of in-home services, senior transportation and concierge services to help elders continue to live a quality life.
Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.