Senior Mental Health: Combat the Holiday Blues

After one Christmas, “Marion” called our office, incensed that someone had called to wish her a happy birthday and a merry Christmas.  As a provider of non-medical senior care, we always call our clients to wish them a happy birthday, and Marion’s happened to fall on December 25.  But she was alone and didn’t appreciate being reminded that she was alone for Christmas.

For anyone, the holidays can be a mixed bag of emotions.  There’s the high of family, presents, and lots of lots of chocolate.  But with every high comes a low, and when your family has returned out of state and the chocolate has gone from the decorative tray to your waistline, a serious case of the post-holiday doldrums might set in.

Holiday Blues, Depression, Senior Depression, Taking Care of Elderly Parents, Home Care Services for Seniors, In-Home Care MinneapolisFor seniors, the potential for the blues can be heightened by loneliness, mobility issues, and other ailments of aging.  When the kids are gone, it can be easy for Mom to focus on missing Dad, to awaken the loneliness of being 200 miles from the kids, or added weight can exacerbate pain issues.

Here are four tips to share with your elderly parents to help them beat the post-holiday blues:

Exercise: When you exercise, the brain’s executive functions (planning, organizing, and multitasking, among others) can improve.  Exercise can also be a form of stress relief, and it also stimulates brain chemicals that can make you feel happier.  Encouraging your elderly parents to start mall walking or to join a community exercise group can add a little spark to their steps.

Eat Healthier: You feel better when you have a healthy diet.  Encourage your elderly parents to substitute junk foods with fruits and vegetables, as well as with healthy fats like nuts and seeds.  Because of mobility issues or pain that makes cooking difficult, seniors sometimes become reliant on salt-heavy frozen meals.  Encourage them to eat balanced meals, and if needed, consider finding someone to help with meal preparation.

Get Out of the House: It’s so important for people of all ages not to stay cooped up all day at home.  Encourage your elderly parents to make an appointment at a hairdresser or to plan a shopping trip.  Just being out among people can lessen the sting of loneliness.

Socialize: The human touch releases uplifting endorphins, and it reduces blood pressure and heart rate, making you more relaxed and content.  If they are facing the loss of friends or feeling alone, encourage your elderly parents to participate in social activities regularly.  It might be a good idea to get them involved in an adult day program or senior activities at their local community center.

It’s also important to realize that the post-holiday blues might also be a sign of depression, which should not be treated lightly.  If needed, encourage your parents to see a mental health professional.

Carol Hauser, M.A.



December 24, 2011

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