For most seniors and their caregivers in the Northshore, falls and hypothermia are often the main concerns during the cold winter months. However, seniors, especially those living alone, can also be at risk for a lesser-known health hazard – seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, seniors can start to feel symptoms of depression. Feeling down as the holidays come to an end can be a normal reaction. However, when the feeling of sadness persists for longer periods of time, it should throw up a red flag.
Some signs of SAD include:
- Loss of energy
- Change in appetite
- Change in sleeping habit
- Isolation and loss of interest in socializing
If you observe a loved one experiencing depression during these upcoming winter months, here are 4 ways you can help them battle SAD:
- Light Therapy – A decline in the amount of daylight during fall and winter affects circadian rhythms and causes hormonal changes that lead to depressive symptoms in people with SAD. Open curtains or drapes around the house to allow as much light in as possible. Some doctors may also suggest having your loved one sit in front a light box, a fluorescent lamp that emits light intended to simulate natural sunlight, for 30-45 minutes a day.
- Go outside for a walk, if physical health and weather conditions permit. Research has shown that Vitamin D deficiency can cause excessive fatigue and have subtle effects on depressed moods. The most natural way to get more Vitamin D is exposure to sunlight.
- Engage your loved in fun activities. Sometimes all a person needs is a little encouragement and companionship. Sit with your loved one and do a puzzle together, watch your favorite movie together. Find an activity they enjoy doing and be physically present with them.
- Prepare balanced meals that boost energy. Make sure your loved ones are eating meals high in protein, such as chicken, tuna and eggs. Try swapping out white bread for whole grains, which contain complex carbs that boost metabolism. Give tons of fruits and vegetables, which provide natural sugars that jump-start energy and helps to stabilize blood sugars throughout the day.