NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Holiday depression is an issue for many people who have endured loss and especially for older homebound people and their family members who are responsible for their care.
It’s easy for people who have outlived many of the most important people in their lives to dwell[more] on the fact that holiday celebrations will never be what they once were. In addition to the loss of loved ones, older people often suffer from the loss of independence, income and physical abilities. Many also feel that they are burdens to their children or spouses. All of these factors can contribute to a very blue Christmas.
Family caregivers can also set themselves up for depression when they add too many holiday activities to their regular routines. If they try to do all the things they did in the past for the holidays, they can quickly become stretched too thin and become physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s important for them to be realistic about what they can do and protect their own health. Now would be a good time to call on all those who have offered to help.
Inviting close friends and relatives to visit can be a happy diversion for the family caregiver as well as the homebound relative. But instead of feeling that it’s necessary to provide a party, the family caregiver could plan a decorating party and ask the guests to bring food and trim the tree.
It’s normal for most people to shed a sentimental tear during the holidays, but crying that becomes excessive or disabling can be a sign of major depression. The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation website lists this and the following signs that may indicate the need to see a mental health professional: suicidal thoughts, an increased use of alcohol or pain killers, abnormal confusion or loss of concentration during family events and sudden self-imposed isolation.
Beth Landon, vice president for community services for CareLink, encourages family caregivers to call CareLink for information and assistance for resources to make care-giving easier and help in finding available services for older relatives.
CareLink is a nonprofit agency that provides resources for older people and their families in central Arkansas. Last year more than 19,000 people in Faulkner, Lonoke, Monroe, Prairie, Pulaski and Saline counties were CareLinked with information and resources to help them stay active and stay in their own homes, avoiding more costly care. Older people and their caregivers can get the information and assistance they need from CareLink at 501-372-5300, toll-free 800-482-6359 or by visiting www.care-link.org.