It’s the holiday season and everyone’s happy, right? Not necessarily! Everyone’s experience different this time of year. If you’ve lost loved ones, or if you have a loved one who is dealing with a chronic health condition – or you are dealing with it yourself – the holidays may not be a very happy time. The fact that everyone else seems to be having so much fun can actually increase feelings of loneliness and depression.
Depression and a Sense of Loneliness Increase at the Holidays
Though it seems counterintuitive, both depression and loneliness are more likely to occur at the holidays precisely because of the festive nature of the season. People around us are happy, and all of society even seems happy. But that’s when depression and feelings of isolation can feel most acute during this time. If you’re not sharing in the festivities around you – whatever the reason – loneliness and depression can be natural outcomes.
For anyone who has lost one or more loved ones around the holidays, the arrival of the holiday season can be a painful reminder of those who were close to us who have come and gone. It can be very difficult to assume a festive attitude in light of the deep sense of loss. This is true for spouses, children, parents, and friends.
Additionally, the holiday season can also produce an increase in stress. The season brings with it a series of family gatherings that can be complicated. For many people, it also involves travel. And of course, there’s the shopping frenzy. The elevated activity levels can produce feelings of lack of control.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you enter the holiday season without much activity on your schedule, it can be incredibly depressing. This could be because you’ve lost some of the people closest to you in your life. For others, it could be a matter of being estranged from loved ones, or simply separated by geography.
Whatever the cause, loneliness and depression are more pronounced at the holidays.
Loneliness and Depression Intensify When a Loved One has a Chronic Health Condition
In addition to the issues above, if you have a prolonged illness, or you are caring for a loved one who does, you may simply lack the time and energy to get into the holiday spirit. Chronic illness can bring with it a sense of hopelessness, which leads to isolation and even depression.
The fact that you and your family are dealing with a major health crisis can even bring feelings of resentment toward those who do not have a similar burden. It can seem as if the rest of the world is happily carrying on while being completely oblivious to your situation.
These feelings are perfectly normal, and the result of dealing with a situation that brings more than its share of stress and emotional pressures.
Loneliness, Depression and Caregiver Burnout
In the case of a family dealing with a serious health issue with one of their members, the challenges facing caregivers are very real as well. If most or all of your time is spent caring for an ailing loved one, you won’t have time to engage in normal holiday activities.
Primary caregivers are particularly prone to depression and feelings of loneliness at the holidays. If most or all of your time is spent providing care for a loved one, you may be completely unable to participate in the holiday season. As well, if friends and other family members somehow expect you to insulate them from care of a loved one, feelings of isolation can become even more pronounced.
Complicating the whole situation is the perceived need to carry on as normal. Not all family members are sensitive to the fundamental changes that take place with a loved one who is suffering from a long-term illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. They may mostly try to ignore the problem, especially at the holidays. This can increase the burden of the primary caretaker, who may get even less help than normal in caring for the loved one.
Discussing Assisted Living with Family over the Holidays
Every family is different. For many, the holidays aren’t always the best time to bring up sensitive topics, like moving a loved one to an assisted living or memory care community. It may well be that the best strategy is to focus more on getting family members to “agree to agree” on seriously discussing the prospect immediately after the holidays.
The fact that a loved one is ailing may be difficult enough by itself. Family members may attempt to avoid the subject during the holiday season, using it as a respite from the stress of the care situation.
The counterargument is that the holidays are the very best time, because the family is gathered together in one place. In many families, the holidays may be the only time of the year the whole family gets together, making it opportune to discuss important matters.
We Can Help
We promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.
At The Kensington, we respect each family’s unique set of needs. We support seniors and their families, and are available throughout the holidays as a resource to help navigate discussions about senior living, as well as to address a loved one’s loneliness or depression at the holiday season. We are happy to provide support, information, arrange meetings or suggest resources that may help ease the process. Contact us through our website, or by phone (914) 390-0080.