The Christmas tree is down, the lights are put away, and the New Year’s Eve ball has dropped. The extra time with family and friends, great food and time off work were nice, but it’s time to get back into the regular routine.
This transition back to daily living is sometimes difficult for older loved ones who live alone or spend most of their days by themselves. Post-holiday depression due to loneliness or health issues may arise.
According to statistics, depression affects about 6 million Americans ages 65 and older. But only 10 percent receive treatment for it. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs and do your best to keep your loved one feeling special year-round.
What are the causes or symptoms of post-holiday depression?
Depression after the holidays can have many causes. During the holidays, your loved ones may have gotten more attention than usual. Family and friends from out of town may have visited or your loved one had increased time with you.
Heightened feelings of loneliness often occur once the family visits have stopped. Remember that personal visits and phone calls are just as important to your loved one after the holidays as they are during the holiday season.
If you’re not spending large chunks of time with your loved one, it might be difficult to recognize the signs of depression. Here are some things to watch for:
- Anxiety or feelings of emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Increased fatigue and decreased energy
- Trouble concentrating and making decisions
- Sleep changes, including difficulty sleeping and oversleeping
- Appetite and weight changes
- Irritability and restlessness
How do you treat or prevent post-holiday depression?
Some of the most effective ways to combat depression in the elderly without medication are exercise, healthy eating habits, interaction with friends and family on a regular basis, engaging in activities, and having and caring for a pet.
If you have an aging parent who lives alone or is far away, encourage them to join a senior center or get involved in a church, club, or other activity. Social activities can help ease depression and increase activity. You could also sign your loved one up for a low-impact fitness class to keep them active physically and socially.
Other ways to prevent depression for your loved one are:
- Check in on them often, even stopping by unexpectedly just to talk or visit with them. Bring them an easy-maintenance plant to care for to give them a sense of purpose.
- Keep them up to date on other events, such as a family member’s birthday and special days being planned. They will feel part of what’s going on beyond themselves.
- Make sure they know in advance when they will see family and friends again, and offer to help them pick out a special outfit for the event.
- Try to keep them into a regular routine. If your loved one stayed up extra late during the holidays, but is typically an early riser, make sure they are able to get back into their old routines.