The holidays can be a time of much stress, but for kupuna, it can also be a time of deep depression.
Depression wears many disguises. It can reveal itself in mood changes and sadness or a decline in energy and more fatigue.
For seniors during the holidays, it can appear as if they have no interest in the season.
“It looks like stress and anxiety, and they’re short-tempered and irritable, and seeming to be really worried about every little detail,” said psychologist Dr. Allana Coffee. “That’s one way that we know a person is experiencing some depression or sadness.”
It’s important to understand, the Christmas holiday is not what causes the depression. During the holidays, kupuna tend to feel the absence of parents, siblings, and friends who have gone before them, and they worry about everyone.
“There’s so much that our parents think about, and our grandparents still worry for us even though we’re adults, and then they worry about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Coffee said. “They are full of their thoughts for us and their hopes for us.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 2 million kupuna suffer from full-blown depression with another 5 million suffering from less severe depression. Both are difficult to diagnose and often got untreated.
There are ways you can help.
“They don’t get visited very much because their kids are working or playing with our peers, our adult friends, so time is the most valuable thing I think we can give to our parents,” Coffee said.
If you can’t visit, give them a call, and don’t ignore or pretend problems don’t exist, and don’t overlook the need to seek professional help.
“We talk about it medically. We talk about it factually, and not so much personally because they feel judged,” Coffee said. “I know that the kupuna are very sensitive. They can feel judged by their children, ‘Don’t tell me what to do’ kind of a thing.”
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of human touch. A loving hug and embrace is a present money can never buy.