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Rx for holiday blues

Sat, Dec 27th 2014 09:00 am
Theresa M. Humennyj, left, started this month as Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center's director of social work and continuing education. At right is Lee Forster, a former 53-year resident of Grand Island, who will celebrate her 81st birthday Dec. 30. She is among four Grand Island widows and friends now enjoying independent living at Elderwood Residences at Wheatfield.
Theresa M. Humennyj, left, started this month as Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center's director of social work and continuing education. At right is Lee Forster, a former 53-year resident of Grand Island, who will celebrate her 81st birthday Dec. 30. She is among four Grand Island widows and friends now enjoying independent living at Elderwood Residences at Wheatfield.

Story and photo by Susan Mikula Campbell

The holidays are a time of joy with friends and family for most people, so why are you feeling sad and alone?

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center experts tried to answer that question at a free luncheon program for senior citizens at Elderwood Residences at Wheatfield. On hand were licensed clinical social worker Theresa M. Humennyj, newly appointed this month as Memorial's director of social work and continuing treatment, and Dr. Nathalie Bousader-Armstrong, certified in both internal and preventive medicine, who has an office at the Summit Family Health Center in Wheatfield.

"That is very normal," Humennyj said of the down-and-out feelings of holiday blues or winter woes. "We want to spread the word about some of the things you can do to feel a little bit better."

People over the age of 50, especially women, have multiple things going on in their lives, ranging from changes in their bodies and new health issues to children leaving home and starting their own lives as adults and parents, she said. The stress of holiday arrangements or the pain of remembering absent loved ones has its own effect.

Bousader-Armstrong added that a more severe type of depression, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, may also occur during these cold, dark winter days.

The health experts suggested trying some self-care tips that might help with beating the blues:

•Go to a movie, take a walk, go ice-skating or do other activities you normally enjoy.

•Get out in the sunlight or brightly lit spaces, especially early in the day.

•Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative.

•Eat nutritious foods, and avoid overloading on carbohydrates like cookies and candies.

•Be patient. You won't suddenly snap out of depression. Your mood will improve gradually. However, if you have thoughts of suicide, get help right away. Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

In addition to staying active, eating right and reaching out to other people, Humennyj and Bousader-Armstrong said further help is available through Memorial's Get Well/Stay Well Program. Aimed at seniors ages 55 and older, the program integrates primary care with mental health counseling and senior support services at the Summit Family Health Center.

"Health care is changing," Humennyj said, noting that not only physical, but emotional, health is an important part of patient treatment today.

Memorial will sponsor another luncheon program at Elderwood Residences at Wheatfield, 2600 Niagara Falls Blvd., at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 13. Athletic trainer Tony Surace will talk to senior citizens about how to avoid slips, trips and falls during winter weather. Call 716-278-4604 to register.

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