Keeping the Holidays Bright for Seniors in Assisted Living

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 20 October 2011

Christmas decorations are already on the shelves in major retail stores, white lights blinking and red tinsel sparkling just beyond the racks of Halloween costumes and candy.

Enter the holiday blues.

Many of us miss loved ones lost, and particularly around the holidays. But as Dr. Vicki Rackner writes in a post for the Emeritus Senior Living blog, the National Institutes of Health estimate about 2 million older adults (65 and up) suffer from full-blown depression and 5 million from a lesser form of it. All told, these numbers represent nearly 20% of the senior population.

Depression in seniors isn’t always related to the holidays; its symptoms are sometimes confused with other medical issues or may be indicative of an underlying illness (like chronic pain, dementia or malnutrition, for instance).

You may think that your senior relatives should be happier at the holidays in assisted living because they are engaged in a community of peers, not home alone and pondering their losses. But this is not the case. Seniors who suffer from this seasonal depression are not feeling like Scrooge because they hate the holidays. It is usually not the holiday itself that triggers the blues, but the reminders and memories of the past that come flooding back when the smell of pumpkin pie is in the air, when the wreaths and stockings are hung. A change in routine can also provoke symptoms.

Check out our articles on safe holiday travel for seniors, recognizing the holiday blues, and dealing with Alzheimer’s during the holidays.


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