Holiday Depression: How to Recognize It and Take Action
At the Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, we know that people facing medical challenges are more susceptible to Depression —especially during the Holidays.
Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of Depression. It can be difficult for people who are homebound or not fully physically able to maintain active social lives and take part in social events including family gatherings and holiday parties. For many people, holidays can also be a painful reminder of the past. This is especially true for people who have experienced a significant loss, such as the death of a spouse.
Contributors to Depression include:
• Minor or serious medical problem
• Chronic pain or complications of an illness
• Memory loss
• Poor diet
• Loss of a spouse or companion
• Lack of exercise or sleep
• Change in routine
• General frustrations with aging
Symptoms to look for include:
• Irritable or hopeless mood
• Feelings of worthlessness or sadness
• Expressions of helplessness
• Loss of interest in daily activities
• Changes in appetite
• Significant weight loss or gain
• Lack of attention to personal care and hygiene
• Difficulty concentrating
• Thoughts about death and suicide
How to Help
• Allow the person to talk about their feelings. It can be as simple as asking, “how are you feeling?” and listening to what they say. They may not volunteer how they are feeling unless you ask, because they don’t want to be ‘a burden.’ Taking a real interest in their wellbeing also demonstrates how much you care.
• Discuss foods with better nutrition. Some depression can be exacerbated by lack of good nutrition. Share tasty food or recipes that are high in Vitamins and Minerals.
• Increasing physical activity improves mood. Physical limitations of most elderly may make this hard so use simple exercises (like talking a walk) or reinforce what they are working on with Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy.
• Get enough sleep. Emphasize the importance of sleep and encourage them to ask their doctor for help if they routinely experience disrupted sleep patterns.
• Fresh Air and Sunshine – If possible, encourage them to get outside or sit on the front/back porch (wearing appropriate clothing). Sunshine and fresh air is good for the soul and also helps with Vitamin D, which boosts mood.
• Encourage them to ask their Colorado VNA care providers about additional resources, including our visiting Medical Social Workers and our Holiday Adopt-a-Patient program.
Take a Mental Health First Aid training with the Colorado VNA to learn more about recognizing and responding supportively and constructively to common mental health problems. The trainings are free to community members and offered as paid trainings to VNA staff through a grant from Community First Foundation. For more information about this program or to reserve your seat, call (303) 698-6367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.