Elderly among groups struggling with seasonal depression

Published 1:02 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2022

This article  discusses depression, a mental health condition that, depending on severity, may  lead to suicidal thoughts or ideations. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

With all the celebrations and festivities going on this time of year, it can be easy to forget that not everyone is having a good time.

Some lives are filled with friends and family stopping by; but for some, there are no shopping trips or dinner parties to attend.

Seasonal depression can affect a wide segment of the population, but senior citizens can be more vulnerable to this particular kind of depression, according to local medical professionals.

With some, just going shopping to get the things they need for the holidays may bring stress.

Karen Sullins with Helping Hearts and Helping Hands, a local counseling center that serves several counties, explained how this type of stress affects the elderly.

“Finances have a lot to do with seasonal depression in the elderly,” Sullins said. “Especially those on a fixed income.”

Sullins added this type of depression has the most impact on those who live alone, such as those who have lost a spouse.

After the highs of Thanksgiving and Christmas are over, this is when most seniors experience the sadness and loneliness of the holidays.

“In January, it’s a letdown,” said Alaina Norman, of Country Place Senior Living.

She added residents see the flurry of visits and packages that come during the holidays. Then, in January, when everything slows down, and people get back to their regular routine, the seniors begin to experience loneliness at this time, instead of during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

There are different types of counselors who handle this type of depression.

Seniors living in assisted living, or nursing homes, have a variety of options when help is needed.

“We have different agencies that come in and offer that type of counseling,” Norman said. “We have Hospice and home health nurses who come in and offer help.”

Several ministers also visit the facility and help with the seniors.

“We have a Wednesday Bible study group with really good ministers, who come in and lead the study,” Norman said. “It’s a really good thing. Our residents trust them.”

Country Place has had a Bible study group in place since 2015.

There are other things that senior care facilities do that help their residents through the slow down period after the holidays.

Pine Needle has several activities available for their residents.

“Some of the elderly get depressed around the holidays,” Sandra Johnson said. “We have different activities that we do for them. We do Bingo, coloring and painting.”

They had just finished the Elf Hunt, a contest held by The Greenville Advocate, earlier that day.

“The residents really enjoyed that,” Johnson said.

Pine Needle also has Bible study with the residents every Tuesday.

Sullins believes this greatly improves the morale of the elderly who are not living in their own homes. 

“I think this season has been a bit more of a challenge with the assisted living and care staff, to try to normalize the holiday season,” Sullins said.

“They are going above and beyond to schedule events and reaching out to family and friends,” Sullins added.

Churches and community out-reach programs definitely help fill in the gaps during this time of year; by going in and spending time with the residents who don’t have a family who can come in and spend the time with them.

“It takes a lot of positivity, love, hope, and resilience to be able to look at the face of adversity over the last couple of years,” Sullins said.

But these are exactly the qualities needed to help the elderly, or anyone else in need, overcome the sadness and loneliness they may feel during this special holiday season and beyond.

Helping Hearts and Helping Hands can be reached at (800) 484-4107.

They are located at 4207 Bowden Rd. in Honoraville.

They can also be found at www.helpinghandsspcc.org, and Karen Sullins can be reached at (334) 320-1449.