For seniors residing in assisted living, the holidays can be a challenging time. Memories of past holidays can be bittersweet, especially if a spouse or loved one is now deceased. Additionally, since seniors in assisted living are no longer residing in their own homes, they may feel like there is little they can do to celebrate the season “their way”. Important traditions, like hosting a family dinner, are no longer options. Geriatric health challenges during the holidays include depression and anxiety. Learn the signs to watch for during the holiday season and the best ways to support residents in your care.
During the holidays, you may notice that residents in your care are not quite themselves. While the “holiday blues” can happen to anyone, depression and anxiety are especially common amongst seniors who have recently lost loved ones or may be struggling with physical problems such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease, or mobility issues with the hips and joints. These trigger events, combined with Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s can trigger a rush of memories, along with depression, sadness and anxiety over their future.Watch for the following signs:
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Feeling less joyful and being quieter or more reserved than normal
- Loss of interests in activities that once brought happiness, including holiday traditions and festivities.
It’s a myth that depression is a “normal” part of aging. Late-in-life depression is just as treatable as other forms of depression. If you notice a resident exhibiting symptoms of depression, talk to the resident, his or her family, and the resident’s healthcare team. While sometimes these feelings may pass with the holidays, in other cases, the resident may benefit from speaking with a geriatric health specialist who treats patients with depression.
Creating a joyful atmosphere that incorporates residents’ different traditions can also help them create new memories while reflecting on their past holidays with fondness.