Holidays for some, and particularly for seniors, bring not only joy and delight in celebration, but sadness and depression.  For many, Christmas is a reminder that friends and family members have passed on, that the frequency of family gatherings has declined, and that their own ability to participate in the occasion has diminished.

Family members should be alert to any symptom of depression, picking up on clues that something isn’t right with a loved one.  If symptoms appear to be more long-standing, but worsened during the season, schedule an appointment with a physician to determine if antidepressants should be prescribed.

Depression manifests itself in some elderly as irritability and crankiness.  Depressed seniors may exhibit negativity toward holiday activities, family members and friends.  They may become argumentative, creating discord and dissension.         

Steps to ward off depression should be employed year-round, but especially during the holiday season.  Engaging in regular phone and email contact, as well as routine face-to-face visits, can help the elderly feel cared for, thought about and loved, rather than abandoned or forgotten.  Encourage older family members to socialize with friends and participate in community events.  Do all you can to make them feel “special.”

Encourage your beloved seniors to express their feelings about any sadness or despair. Let them know it’s okay to cry.

Family members should learn tactics to distract the senior and to divert discussion away from unpleasant topics of conversation.  With many seniors, it is not just politics and religion that should be avoided, but other trigger topics.

Often depression in seniors is brought on by setting unrealistically high expectations. They may experience inability to cope as effectively with the stress of extra cooking, cleaning and shopping generated by the holidays as in their younger years. Making it clear that perfection isn’t expected can help prevent their becoming discouraged over this decreased capacity.

Depression can be triggered when Seniors feel financial pressures at Christmastime more than other times of the year. Adjust gift-giving traditions in ways that are sensitive to this.                                        

 Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.