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How to Spot, and Beat, the Holiday Blues

Elderly may be especially prone to depression this time of year, experts say

SATURDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- For some older people, the holidays can generate feelings of sadness as they think about lost loved ones, financial concerns, or health problems, experts note.

To help seniors ward off the holiday season blues, the American Geriatrics Society offers the following tips:

  • Socialize. Ask family and friends for help traveling to parties and events or invite family and friends over.
  • Volunteer. Helping others can help boost your mood.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol, which can have a negative effect on your mood.
  • Accept and express your feelings. If you're feeling blue, talk to someone about it. It may help you understand why you're feeling down.
  • Recognize the warning signs of depression. Holiday blues tend to be temporary and mild, but depression is more serious and can last a long time if you don't get help. Be alert for signs of depression, such as: unrelenting sadness; loss of interest or pleasure; changes in appetite and weight; sleeping a lot more or less than usual; 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 has the blues or seems depressed, you should:

  • Lend a hand by offering to help with shopping, transportation and preparations for get-togethers in their homes.
  • Be a good listener and encourage your loved one to talk about how they're feeling. Acknowledge their "difficult" feelings, such as a sense of loss if family or friends have died or moved away.
  • Encourage the person to talk with a health care provider. Many people don't realize when they're depressed. Explain to your loved one that 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, December 2007

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