As the holiday season approaches, most people feel a sense of cheer and excitement creep in. After all, Thanksgiving and Christmas are each meant to be a time of celebration and cheer. Unfortunately, many seniors find themselves feeling isolated and depressed during this time of year.
For many older adults, the holidays are a time that has grown to represent sadness. Whether it is because family members and loved ones have passed away, an incapacitating illness or just an overall lack of social interaction, this is the time of year when severe loneliness sets in.
What are the Signs of Holiday Loneliness?
One of the most important things you can do to help combat elder loneliness during the holidays is to understand the condition and its signs. Loneliness can easily lead to depression for many older adults and, when left untreated, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Some of the most common signs of holiday related loneliness and depression are:
- A lack of interest in things that used to bring joy
- A sudden change of disposition, often going from cheerful to mean or sad
- An abrupt change in eating habits
- Further isolation from friends and family members
- A severe lack of interest in social interaction
- A severe change in sleeping habits (such as sleeping too long)
- Verbalizing their hatred of the holiday season
What Can You Do to Help?
While it might sound simple, just spending some extra time with your loved one can make a huge difference during the holidays. When you’re dealing with an older adult who feels isolated and depressed, the key is to make them realize just how needed and special they truly are.
Try to include seniors in as many holiday activities as possible, as it can give them a great self-esteem boost. No matter how simple the task, if you can provide them with a purpose, it will have a great impact. For example, you could ask your loved one to help you cook the Thanksgiving dinner by basting the turkey or setting the table.
If you live hundreds of miles away from your loved one, make an effort to speak with them more often during this time of year. Or better yet, plan a trip to visit him or her close to the holidays. You’d be surprised how spending a little time together can keep an older adult from feeling left out, forgotten or abandoned.