Holiday depression common for homebound older people

Holiday depression is a particular concern for older homebound people and family members who are responsible for their care.

“It’s easy for people who have outlived many of the most important people in their lives to dwell on the fact that holiday celebrations will never be what they once were,” said CareLink Outreach Manager Debbie Gillespie. “In addition to the loss of loved ones, older people often suffer from the loss of independence, income and physical abilities. Many also feel that they are burdens to their children or spouses.”

Family caregivers can also set themselves up for depression when they add too many holiday activities to their regular routines. If they try to do all the things they did in the past for the holidays, they can quickly become stretched too thin and become physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s important for them to be realistic about what they can do and protect their own health. Now would be a good time to call on all those who have offered to help.

Gillespie encourages family caregivers to call CareLink at 501.372.5300 or toll-free 800.482.6359 to receive information and referrals from social workers who are familiar with local mental health services. There is no charge for calls to CareLink Information & Assistance.

It’s normal for most people to shed a sentimental tear during the holidays, but crying that becomes excessive or disabling can be a sign of major depression. Other symptoms to look for include memory problems, confusion, social withdrawal, loss of appetite, weight loss, increased use of alcohol or other drugs, vague complaints of pain, inability to sleep, oversleeping, irritability, delusions and hallucinations.

Depression is not a normal or necessary part of aging, and there are many steps family caregivers can take to help overcome the symptoms. It is important to recognize signs of depression and explore resources that can treat depression and other mental health problems faced by older people.

Last year, more than 18,000 people in Faulkner, Lonoke, Monroe, Prairie, Pulaski and Saline counties were CareLinked with information and resources to help them stay active and in their own homes, avoiding more costly care. Older people and their caregivers can also get the information and assistance they need by visiting