Holiday blues - elderly depression during the Christmas period

Although not everyone celebrates Christmas, the holiday period can often increase feelings of loneliness with residents being reminded of friends that have passed, a lack of family get-togethers, memories of happier times living in the family home, and increased physical challenges of being able to participate in activities. These feelings of loneliness and sadness can often be exacerbated if they’re surrounded by residents receiving numerous visits by family and friends.

This increased loneliness and sadness and lack of social interaction can often play a role in depression, and therefore it’s critical that during this time there is increased attention placed on resident emotional wellbeing to ensure any risk factors or symptoms of depression are identified and addressed. Depression also impacts older people differently, often occurring with other medical illnesses and disabilities and can often last longer.

Common Symptoms of Elderly Depression Include:

  • Change in sleeping habits

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Apathy or lethargy

  • Change of appetite

  • Loss of interest in activities

  • Loss of interest in socialising

It’s critical that risk factors for depression in the elderly are identified and managed early; and depression itself is diagnosed and treated urgently as it’s also associated with an increased risk of cardiac diseases, and an increased risk of death from illness. Depression also reduces an elderly person's ability to rehabilitate. Studies of nursing home patients with physical illnesses have shown that the presence of depression substantially increases the likelihood of death from those illnesses (Goldberg, 2018).

There are a number of treatment options available for depression including medication and counselling with often a combination of treatments being the most effective. The recommended treatment will often depend on the type and severity of the depression, past treatments, and other medical conditions.

Goldberg, Joseph (2018) WebMD