The holidays are a time of year when many
families visit their aging loved ones, often
seeing them face-to-face for the first time
months, perhaps an entire year.
That’s why experts advise families to carefully
watch for signs of possible depression or
medical issues in older adults during holiday
visits, be prepared with an arsenal of
spirit-lifting activities and develop a plan of
action before heading home.
According to BrightStar Care,
A full-service home care agency
that provides both medical and
non-medical care to patients from
infants to elders, 15 of every 100
adults over the age of 65 are
affected by depression.
For many families that are geographically separated from their
aging loved ones, the holidays may provide a rare opportunity to
look for potential warning signs of depression, or other medical
Although the holiday season is a typically a time of
celebration and joy, this time of year can create a sense of
nostalgia and melancholy amongst the senior population,”
says Sharon Roth Maguire, Chief Clinical Officer of BrightStar Care.
“Family visits are a prime opportunity to not only observe for
warning signs, but also provide much-needed
companionship, mental stimulation and general uplifting
activities. In many cases, these visits can be lifesaving.
Roth Maguire encourages family members to look for the following signs
when visiting their loved ones..
Take note of changes in sleeping and eating habits, including reduced
appetite and difficulty sleeping. Accidents around the home, including
dizziness or falling could also indicate a physical condition or side effects
of improperly mixing medications/taking the wrong doses.
Not shaving, not doing hair or makeup and neglected hygiene can signal
the inability to physically care for themselves on their own, or a loss of
interest in appearance. Either may indicate depression, or a wide range
of undiagnosed conditions that require professional attention.
Seniors are especially susceptible to feelings of isolation and depression
because of health, financial issues or the loss of a spouse or other loved
ones, especially during the holiday season. As families gather
together, pay close attention to see if your aging loved one seems
disinterested in group conversations and appears dazed or lackluster.
Look for an abnormally messy or cluttered home, piles of laundry or
unpaid bills or rotting food in the refrigerator. Any of these things are a
sign that the older adult may no longer be able to perform these
household tasks on their own, requiring an outside caregiver to help.
The holidays and winter are also an important time for senior flu
prevention, as this time marks the start of flu season. When it
comes to infection prevention overall, seniors aged 65 and over
are an important and often more vulnerable segment of the
According to the Center for Disease
Control, this is because human immune
defenses become weaker with age,
making influenza and other infections
very serious for the elderly population.
In fact, more than 60 percent of seasonal
flu-related hospitalizations in the United
States each year occur in people 65 years and
BrightStar Care’s “Healthy for the Holidays” program aims to promote
whole-person wellness by focusing on physical as well as emotional
health and, specifically, flu prevention and providing additional support
to seniors who may have the “holiday blues.”
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