Holiday Blues: Christmas Season Can Be Difficult For Older Adults

By Becky Blum RN

Senior Nutrition

Program Director

For most of us, the holidays are a time of joy and happiness. However, for older individuals, the holidays can be difficult because they are often reminded of their losses, or how much things have changed, how quickly time has passed, and possibly what in their lives they have failed to accomplish.

They can also become resentful towards any health problems they may be faced with, or their loss of independence. We all may reflect on the absence of friends, family, siblings, children, parents and possibly even a spouse over the holidays. The most important thing you can do is to engage and include your loved one in various activities surrounding the holidays, reminding them of those who are here who love them and care for them. This was true for me the first Christmas my daughter didn’t come home for the holidays. I did not put one decoration up and it just wasn’t Christmas for me without her. Thank goodness for my sister and her family. Other stressors that may contribute to the holiday blues is lack of money in relation to gift giving, over spending, shopping in and of itself, and fatigue from all the happenings and obligations that come along with the season.

Here are some tips to help cope with holiday melancholy:

Accept your sadness – There is nothing wrong with spending some time during the holiday feeling your pain. We can’t force ourselves to be jolly and gay all of the time.

Talk with someone – Discuss your feelings with an empathetic person. Discussing your blues can help you better understand where it is coming from or it may be a family loss that needs to be shared, not glossed over.

Try not to dwell on the past. It is never a good idea to carry all the “what ifs” and “I should haves” as these can’t be changed.

Try to get out and about – Invite family and friends over to visit and ask for help traveling to parties and events. Volunteering is another good way to improve mood. Helping others just feels good.

Go easy on the alcohol, which is a depressant and can lower your mood even further.

Don’t abandon healthy habits such as watching your diet.

Accept the limitations of your finances and budget – others will understand, just be up front and honest about it if it is needed.

It is important to recognize depression’s warning signs which indicate you may need professional help which include: sadness that won’t lift for an extended period, loss of interest or pleasure in activities which you used to enjoy, changes in appetite or weight, sleeping much more or much less than normal, crying often, feeling restless or anxious, feeling fatigued or tired all the time, feelings of worthlessness or helplessness or guilt, slowed thinking or decision-making capacity, thoughts of death or suicide.

If you think you have depression, see your doctor.

Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can.

These programs are not sustainable at current levels without the support of participant contributions. Be aware that Food Stamps can be used toward your contribution. I do not want to have to make any further cuts to nutrition services. Thank you for your support.

Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several Congregate Dining Sites throughout the county along with a Restaurant Dining out Program. Our Dietitian, Cheryl Walhstrom, RD is available for nutrition counseling in your home at no cost to you. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Call the office for more details and information.

Call: 753-4471, 661-7471 or 363-4471.