Preventing Holiday Depression When You Are a Caregiver

December 16, 2019

Are you a caregiver struggling to navigate the holidays? This information may help.

Caregivers and depression

For family caregivers, the “most wonderful time of the year” might be anything but. Juggling caregiving duties with a family, career, and the holidays can add up to too much stress. For some caregivers, it can lead to a case of the blues or a more serious diagnosis of depression. Understanding what may be triggering the downward turn in your emotions may help you figure out what to do to prevent it.

Here are a few common reasons caregivers and seniors experience holiday blues and depression:

  • Unrealistic expectations: The role of caregiver is a demanding one. When you add the hectic pace of the holidays to the mix, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.
  • Missing out: It can be isolating to be a caregiver for a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease or another health condition that makes it unsafe for them to stay alone. This is especially true when friends and family members are gathering to celebrate the season.
  • Unresolved grief: Adult children often take on the role of primary caregiver for one parent after the death of another. The demands of caring for a loved one whose health is declining can prevent you from having time to process the grief of losing another beloved family member.
  • Lack of sunlight: Cold winter days may make it tough for a caregiver to get out into the sunlight. For some, a lack of exposure to the sun can lead to a medical condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a serious health issue that often requires medical intervention.

While many assume it’s normal to feel a little blue when they are struggling to manage the demands of caregiving, it’s important to know that depression is not a normal sign of caregiver stress.

Common Warning Signs of Depression

The most common symptoms of depression at any time of year, including the holidays, are:

  • Feelings of sadness that persist for a few weeks or more
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and pastimes
  • Fatigue that doesn’t improve with a good night’s rest
  • Easily triggered crying spells
  • Change in disposition or frequent mood swings
  • Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Problems with sleep, including sleeping too much or too little
  • Shortened attention span or inability to concentrate

If more than one or two of these symptoms describe your current situation, you might have the holiday blues or a more serious case of depression.

Beating the Holiday Blues

To help boost your mood, try the following interventions:

  • Use respite care at an assisted living community so you have time to join in the holiday festivities.
  • Take advantage of technologies like video chat and social media to stay connected to friends and family.
  • Pay careful attention to your diet. Eating healthy foods and avoiding alcoholic beverages that may exacerbate symptoms of depression might help.
  • Be kind to yourself. Accept that when you are a caregiver, it is essential to lower your expectations for the holidays and avoid putting unrealistic pressure on yourself.
  • Ask for help. Caregivers aren’t always good about asking for or accepting assistance. Give yourself permission to do both so you have more time to focus on engaging in activities that bring you joy.
  • Talk with your physician about using a sun lamp to help overcome the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. They are designed to mimic the sun’s rays and boost mental health.

If your symptoms don’t resolve, call your physician. While it may be difficult to admit you need help, getting the medical attention you need is important.

Legacy Senior Living Respite Care

Respite is a short-term care solution that gives family caregivers an opportunity to take a break. Your senior loved one can be our guest and enjoy the same care, services, and amenities as our long-term residents.

Call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you to learn more!