Handling the holiday blues

The holidays can be stressful and seniors are at risk for the holiday blues. Dr. Mary Jane Lambert, a physician specializing in geriatrics, palliative medicine, and hospice at Kaiser Permanente’s Capitol Hill medical center, offers some tips for older adults and their family members to manage holiday stress.

Tips for seniors

  • Pace yourself. Make sure you get plenty of rest.
  • Limit alcohol intake. It can interfere with sleep and make you feel worse.
  • Try new traditions: Enjoy time with others even if it is on a smaller scale than in past years. Volunteer to help others.
  • Get outside if you can. Especially in the Pacific Northwest, we do better in the wintertime if we get some sunlight to help boost our mood.
  • It’s okay to feel sad or lonely during or after the holidays.

Tips for family members

  • Invite your loved one to do things. Make sure they know you are thinking of them.
  • Use time together to carry on family traditions: Listen to life stories, pass on favorite recipes, look at old photos together.
  • If your loved one has trouble with eyesight or hearing, or suffers from memory loss, a large family gathering can be a challenge. Try to make sure everyone can communicate with the senior. Take turns spending time one-on-one during the larger gathering.
  • Stay in touch. Regular visits or calls are important, not just on the holiday itself.
  • Recognize that seniors experience loss, and it’s okay to feel sad or lonely during or after the holidays.

The holiday blues usually pass. If not, you or your loved one may need to seek professional help by speaking with their primary care doctor. Depression is a serious, but treatable condition.

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