By Nori Patnode

We all have special memories of holidays past. Time spent with family and friends burned in our memories and fueling our expectations as the season approaches. I come from a family of four children of which I am the youngest. My favorite memory of Christmas from when I was a child is not just my memory, but a story that gets repeated at family gatherings each Christmas. My brothers and sisters were nine, ten, and eleven years older than me. So, each Christmas they enjoyed sharing stories of Santa and making Christmas a magical time for me.

I also think we like sharing this memory because it involves our father who we lost over thirty years ago. Each Christmas Eve our tradition was for all of us kids to go to bed and then after Santa blessed us with his presence that Eve we awoke and opened the presents he brought that very same night, not having to wait until the morning.

One Christmas Eve my brother and I who shared a room, were told it was time to go to bed because Santa was coming. Of course, I was not asleep but anxiously awaiting the upcoming events. My Father planned to open the festivities of the evening by ringing a bell outside of my bedroom window. My brother was charged with waylaying me, giving my father time to get back into the house before I could reach the front door. My brother loves to tell the next part of the story of how once the bell rang he could not stop me from jumping out of bed like a bolt. I ran so fast for the front door trying to catch Santa that there was no hope of my Father not being caught. When I met my Dad at the front door, he was holding a gold bell with a red Santa on top. He said that he heard the bell and he knew that I would want to meet Santa, so he ran outside to catch him. He said that Santa was in a such hurry delivering gifts to all the children that he could not stay to meet me, so he threw him that bell and asked him to give it to me. Of course, I was completely over the top excited and treasured that bell for years to come. I still have that bell to this day and while the bell may be boxed up and packed away, the memory is not.

Memories, grandiose expectations of feeling happy and fulfilled during the holidays. What if that is not how you are feeling? Many people, especially the seniors struggle with depression this time of year.

Why? Because many seniors have lost a great deal of their support system through the years and may be feeling isolated and lonely. Even if they have adult children who are trying their best to be supportive, those adult children often work and have children of their own.

If your aging parent shows signs of depression such as persistent sadness, lack of appetite, change in sleep patterns or tearfulness, start asking questions. Seek advice from their family doctor. It may help to include them in preparing for the holiday, decorating or preparing meals. Sitting with seniors and truly taking time to listen to their stories will also help and I am certain you will also be blessed by these stories.

If your loved one is feeling isolated, it may be time to think about alternative living situations where they have more of an opportunity to be engaged with others with activities they enjoy. I have witnessed the change that takes place when a senior who was previously isolated and lonely moves to a wonderful community where they make friends and take up hobbies or interests that they had previously let go. It can be an amazing transformation and truly can improve their quality of life.

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