The biggest concerns for seniors in the winter are often things like falling on icy streets or running up high utility bills to stay warm. Many forget about the impact that the cold, gray months of December through March can have on a person’s mood. Seasonal depression in the elderly isn’t just having a case of the “blahs” — it affects the way they think, feel, and interact socially.
According to the American Family Physician, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects 10-20% of Americans. Learning how to treat seasonal affective disorder at home can help ease the burden it places on the senior you care about.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Simply put, seasonal affective disorder is depression that’s most prevalent during the winter months, when hours of natural light are the lowest. A decrease in exposure to sunlight can cause hormonal changes and disrupt our natural circadian rhythms.
Being unable to get outdoors during the limited daylight that is available compounds the problem. Humans need sunlight to process vitamin D, and a lack of vitamin D is linked to depression.
Symptoms of SAD
Everyone feels down once in a while, especially at the start of the year when the holidays are over. However, if those melancholy feelings start creeping in as soon as the sun starts setting earlier and stay until spring, there’s a good chance you (or your loved one) are experiencing SAD.
Symptoms of seasonal depression in the elderly to watch for include:
- Sleeping more/less than usual.
- Appetite changes such as craving carbohydrates and overeating or the opposite, which is experiencing a lack of appetite.
- Gaining or losing weight.
- Withdrawing from friends and social activities.
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
- Disinterest in general as well as in things they are usually interested in.
- Increased moodiness, sadness, and/or irritability.
Understanding the signs of SAD makes the condition easier to identify, prevent and treat.
Seasonal Depression in the Elderly
SAD affects people of all ages, but it can have a longer-lasting impact on seniors. Many times, depression in the elderly is misdiagnosed. This happens because healthcare providers sometimes perceive symptoms of depression to be natural reactions to aging. Seniors often share this perspective and don’t see their symptoms as something they can receive help for. As a result, symptoms of depression in seniors—like those brought on by SAD — are often inadequately treated.
Fortunately, no one has to choose between taking care of their mental health and protecting their physical health. There are several seasonal depression remedies that are easy to incorporate into daily life.
How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder at Home
The most important step in combating seasonal affective disorder is to make sure you speak with your doctor about your symptoms. However, there are effective treatments for SAD at home you can try, such as:
- Taking prescribed medications, such as an antidepressant.
- Avoiding/limiting alcohol and sugar.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Exercising 30 minutes a day at least 3 times a week.
- Finding ways to increase vitamin D intake.
- Practicing mindfulness through yoga or meditation.
- Socializing, even when they don’t feel like it.
- Light therapy, which is effective in treating seasonal affective disorder because it’s proven to improve moods.
If you know your loved one is susceptible to seasonal affective disorder, start taking precautions before winter starts. Stock up on the supplies needed for their favorite seasonal depression remedies. Pay extra attention to their diet, plan fun activities, maybe even get them an emotional support pet!
Also, consider having an in-home assessment from Advanced Nursing + Home Support. A home care assessment helps determine whether seniors are having all of their physical and mental health needs met at home. If they are not, our team of award-winning professionals can make recommendations that will improve the safety and comfort of aging in place.
Get Advice on How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder
At Advanced Nursing + Home Support, our team of compassionate care providers will take the time to understand your loved one’s situation and specific needs. Our in-home care services can help lessen the symptoms brought by seasonal depression in the elderly. If you or a loved one needs skilled nursing in Maryland or the D.C. area, contact Advanced Nursing + Home Support today for more information about our services.