Surviving Christmas

   Written by on December 14, 2017 at 2:03 pm
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Have you seen the movie “Surviving Christmas”?  The basic plot line is about a successful businessman who avoids Christmas because of his dysfunctional childhood memories.  The movie begins with a series of vignettes of people struggling to get through the holiday.  One vignette is a grandmother figure, with gray hair, working in her apron in the kitchen.  She ends her holiday chores by kneeling down in front of the oven and putting her head in the oven.  The producers were trying to poke fun; however, depression is not funny especially if you are the one struggling with depression.

The holidays can be a challenging season for older individuals.  The holiday season may heighten an older adult’s struggle with feelings of loneliness.  This feeling can be compounded by memories of parents, siblings, friends or children who are either no longer living or do not live nearby anymore.  Do you know the difference between the holiday blues and depression?

Depression is not a normal part of aging, but nearly 20% of the older population experience depression.  This rate is nearly twice the rate for people in their 30 and 40’s.  We all have times of feeling down or sad but these feelings should not be continuous.  Are you a caregiver for an elderly family member?  The signs of depression you should watch for include on-going sadness, recurring tears, significant weight changes, and differences in sleep patterns of either lack of sleep or constant sleep.

Older adults often describe their symptoms of depression differently than younger people.  Older people tend to focus more on physical symptoms and less on emotional ones.  An elderly person typically won’t label his/her symptoms as depression.  What you may notice is that your loved one is not sleeping well and has lost weight.  Slow speech and a lack of attention to personal appearance may also be tip-offs to depression.  Listen to how your loved one depicts their health.  He/she may complain of feeling nervous all the time, worried about health issues, headaches, or stomach problems.

Another reason depression isn’t always recognized in older people is because they tend to minimize, or deflect how they are feeling with comments such as “I’m OK, I’m just not sleeping too well.  I’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep;” or “I’m not lonely, my dear.  Don’t worry about me.  How are the children?” or “I’m fine, really.  I’m just not very hungry now.  I think I’ve had a bug, but I’m OK now.”

So what can you do for elderly loved one?

Listen to how your loved one describes their health.  Look for the signs of depression.  Don’t dismiss the symptoms as normal for old age.

We all occasionally get the blues and usually when we do some sort of activity or interaction with others will help pull us out of our unhappiness.  Planning a holiday outing, craft or decorating opportunity can help your loved one feel wanted and appreciated during the holiday season.  If nothing else, simply spending time with older people can be uplifting.  You might encourage him or her to reminisce about holidays or traditions as a child.  Alternatively, ask about the early days of his or her family as an adult and the new traditions started within the family.

Remember that financial resources can be limited for older individuals, so do not put pressure on them to buy gifts.  Always consider providing transportation for them to any gatherings and consider in advance eyesight or hearing difficulties to minimize your loved one’s discomfort or self-consciousness.

Growing old is not easy.  Don’t be afraid to enlist the guidance of a professional to help your loved one make their holiday season as festive as possible.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or dgowin@discoverycounseling.org.

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