How to help senior citizens cope with depression this holiday season

Health

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For many, Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year, but this may be the toughest of all seasons for seniors, according to Rhode Island based therapist Jasmine Appleberry.

Appleberry specializes in older adult mental care and she says this year the elder population may feel even worse due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Depression is very high in seniors, they have had a lot of losses,” Appleberry said.

The Geriatric Mental Health foundation says 1-in-4 seniors ages 65 or older suffers from depression.

The foundation also says more than 70% of older Americans feel isolated and lonely, adding that nearly one-third of older Americans who don’t live in a facility live alone.

“The isolation and the COVID-19, all the fear, having to be away from people, having to cope in different ways, not having access to the same activities, all the senior centers are closed for instance,” Appleberry said.

Appleberry said there are four main triggers for the older adult population during the holidays, including:

  • Sense of loss
  • Isolation/loneliness
  • Chronic health issues
  • Financial difficulties

“A lot of them are living on social security, they don’t have the same income as before,” Appleberry said. “They may feel pressure and may want to give to their kids and grandkids as much as they can. I think its good to look at exchanging gifts that may have some meaning, homemade things, food, crafts, sharing cards is kind of a lost art.”

She said if your loved one seems at risk of depression this season, there are three things you can do:

  • Look for signs of depression: sleeping more than usual, increased isolation, not eating as much
  • Listen to them: have open discussions and hear their stories
  • Call and/or video chat: Appleberry says don’t text, it’s not the same level of connection

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