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 Experts Offer Advice to Manage Holiday Blues, Depression


During the holiday season, it can be challenging to distinguish between depression and the holiday blues. The difference, experts say, lies in not only a person’s symptoms, but the severity of those symptoms and how they perceive their own change in mood. 

That was just one of the many differences between the conditions that was shared last week during Provider’s Twitter chat, Depression and the Holiday Blues. Experts from Serenity HealthCare—an affiliate of Signature HealthCare, the American Health Care Association, and Richard Juman, PsyD, national director of psychological services at TeamHealth shared tips on staying connected with loved ones in long term and post-acute care (LT/PAC) centers and what they do to manage depression and keep the holiday blues at bay.

Watch for the Signs

While broad, holiday blues differs from person to person, says Juman. “In care centers, it can manifest in many ways—from symptoms of depression to noncompliance with staff or refusing to attend facility holiday celebrations,” he says. “Treat each resident as a unique person with their own ways of expressing sadness.” 

Separation from families or loved ones and a tendency to focus on losses might cause the holiday blues in residents, say Serenity experts. Traditions are important to many, and being in a new place is a big change, they say.

“It can be hard for residents not to compare their situations with holidays past, when they were with family and friends,” says Juman. Many times, these residents were playing host to festive gatherings in their homes, and the disconnect from that and loneliness is key, he says.

Depression can be triggered this time of year as well. What Serenity HealthCare experts have seen, they say, has a lot to do with the individual’s own memories of holidays past. 

“We’ve seen depression often triggered by memories of the holidays, and feelings of loss surface,” they say. “It’s these feelings that result in changes in mood and cognitive status.” 

For a resident who has depression, it may show up via symptoms that become exacerbated, says Juman. The themes of their verbalizations may change, with more regret, loneliness, and disconnection. “There’s also bitterness toward family or the holidays in general that wasn’t present before,” he says.

Caregivers Also at Risk

Not surprisingly, staff working in care centers can often show the same symptoms of holiday blues during the holiday season. 

Juman says that while people working in other settings often get to slow down at work, LT/PAC workers often don't. “There can be added pressure at work on top of the holiday stress that everyone is impacted by.” 

Experts at the American Health Care Association recommend letting staff know how much they are appreciated. “Look for ways to relieve stress, by offering time off if needed,” they say. It also helps to take the time to engage those staff without family and friends nearby to celebrate in the center’s events.

To support residents, the participants say that helping them focus on realistic ways to celebrate the holidays and even taking them outside may help with the holiday blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

“Bring in youth groups to provide intergenerational interactions,” say Serenity experts. It’s this interaction that can help residents connect with others and find commonalities. 

For residents with depression, “Recognize that their depression may intensify over the holidays and provide extra support,” says Juman. Don’t expect or force them to participate in holiday activities, and let them decide how much “holiday” they want, he says.
 
Read the full Twitter chat here.​
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