Senior networks release warning signs of depression
The holiday blues: anyone can be impacted during such a stressful time of year.
But seniors who recently lost a spouse or who are living alone miles from family may experience something much more serious that could negatively impact their health.
Separate studies found that women who suffer from diabetes and depression have an increased risk of death from all causes, while men who are depressed are twice as likely to die as women.
"The holiday season should be a happy time for older adults, but so often it's not," said Jeff Huber president of Home Instead, Inc., which has a franchise owned by Michelle Mueller that serves Ottawa County residents.
"That's why companionship for seniors plays such a vital role before, during and even after the holiday season," Huber said.
Both family and professional caregivers often notice a change in older adults as the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas seasons approach. For instance, a change in eating habits may be linked to depression. Home Instead has a Craving Companionship program which provides tips on nutritious eating and mealtime companionship.
"Some of the things that I would suggest at this time are to pay attention to what they are doing. If they are losing weight, they're not eating. If they are getting more depressed and you can see the depression, they are getting more reserved," said Tamera Riggs, owner of a Visiting Angels Senior Homecare franchise that serves the Toledo area.
Riggs, who spoke to the Oregon-Northwood Rotary Club Wednesday at their weekly breakfast, says stress plays a key role in the higher rate of deaths during the holiday season.
"It's not only the weather in Toledo. It does get worse and plays into pneumonia and things as well, but being inside, cooped up with nothing to do also puts on pressure and gets that whole anxiety thing started, and that starts out sicknesses in the beginning," Riggs said.
"I would suggest to take the time to go to a friend or an elderly person, or someone who is ill. They don't necessarily need to be elderly to have that sickness where they can't get out. Invite them to a party or just bring them over for cookies and make them a part of your day."
Riggs says loneliness is not the only contributor to stress. Often, it's remembering loved ones who are no longer here.
"You can probably relate to that by your own stress that you have," Riggs said."It may just be a little bit different than your grandparent's stress, but it's kind of related because if you're trying to get ready for the holidays, it's all that hustle and bustle. Can I get all the packages? Can I get all the presents? I have to prepare the house here, the decorations, and all of that. All of this is stress.
"Well, with the elderly, on top of all that stress that we have, they start remembering all of their loved ones who have passed on. It's maybe their husband or wife, or sometimes their children or their grandchildren, and then especially their friends.
"Both of my parents are gone, but in-laws - they talk about this time of year and how they used to love to get together with their friends. Well, they are in their late 80s and there are only about three couples left, but the friends that they used to go out with and have the Christmas parties are gone, so it's very stressful for them to try and coordinate - trying to get the gifts, trying to get to their children's homes and not knowing that their children are all busy. It's hard for them to ask for help, so that's where coming into play is, 'What do I do for my parent if they are getting stressed?'"
Riggs says if you are inviting a senior citizen out for companionship, be tactful.
"Things you can do are, to not offer to take them out to a party, but just say, 'Mom or Dad, it's time that we go out to a party. Plan on going with me' and take them," Riggs said.
"Make it about you and not about them. Make it, 'I want you to go,' not 'Do you want to go?' because they feel guilty because you are so busy, and they see you busy, so just take the time to say, 'Come with me. I need you.' It is about us, you know.
"If you don't have time, or maybe your parent lives out of state, then there are other alternatives, and that's where other companies, agencies, like Visiting Angels, or there is respite care in homes. What I would suggest if you don't have time or you are out of state, then hire someone to go in so that they are not as lonely this time of the year."
For Home Instead caregiver Gloria Ramsey, the holidays were just around the corner and she saw the signs of depression in her client immediately.
"She was depressed from a fall and just starting to come out of it," Ramsey said.
So Ramsey tried to coax her into sprucing up the house.
"She just didn't think she could do it," the caregiver said. "She told me, 'If you get all the decorations out, you'll have to put them all back.'"
So Ramsey hauled one box after another from the elderly woman's garage. And with each new decoration that Ramsey pulled out, she saw her client's blue mood lift.
"Now, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, we need to decorate," Ramsey said. "Most of the decorations she's had for years, but we've also added to the collection with a few new pieces."
Home Instead Senior Care serving Ottawa County residents can be reached at 419-734-5050. Visiting Angels Senior Homecare can be reached at 419-517-7000.