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Helping Seniors Beat the Holiday Blues

Depression can be a common problem this time of year, experts say

SUNDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- While the holiday season is a festive time for many, it can cause depression for seniors who've lost loved ones or are having health or financial problems.

For some seniors, this despondency can lead to suicide, according to the American Geriatrics Society, which noted that the 2004 suicide rate for Americans over the age of 65 was 14 per 100,000.

The society offers seniors some tips on how to avoid feeling blue during the holidays:

  • Get out and about. Ask family and friends for help traveling to parties and events or invite family and friends to your home.
  • Volunteer. Helping others can be a great mood lifter. Contact local schools, churches, synagogues and mosques to find out about volunteer opportunities.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol, which can lower your spirits.
  • Accept and express your feelings. There's nothing wrong with not feeling happy during the holidays -- many people feel the same way. Talking about your feelings can help you understand why you feel the way you do.
  • Recognize the signs of depression, which include: sadness that won't lift; loss of interest or pleasure; changes in appetite and weight; sleeping much more than normal; crying often; feeling restless or tired all the time; feeling worthless, helpless or guilty; slowed thinking; thoughts of death or suicide.

If you notice that an older loved one seems depressed, lend a hand by offering to help them with shopping, transportation and preparations for get-togethers in their homes, the society advises. Encourage your loved one to talk about how he or she is feeling and acknowledge their difficult feelings.

You should also encourage your loved one to talk to a health-care provider. Many older people don't realize when they're depressed. If you believe an older loved one is depressed, tell them depression is a medical illness that can be treated and managed.

More information

Mental Health America has more about holiday depression and stress.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Geriatrics Society, news release,

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