When it comes to the cold and icy winter months, unexpected falls, hypothermia, or pneumonia are likely at the top of every caregiver’s list of concerns, but seniors are also at risk for other important health risks like seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder
According to Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of cyclical depression that’s related to changes in seasons—SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year, typically beginning in the Fall and ending in late Winter.
As the weather gradually gets colder and the days get shorter, people affected by winter-induced SAD begin to feel the symptoms of depression such as feeling depressed most of the day; losing interest in activities they once enjoyed; problems with sleeping; experiencing changes in appetite or weight; feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty; and having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Family members and caregivers should be on the lookout for indicators of SAD in their loved ones. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that only 10 percent of seniors suffering from depression actually receive support. If you notice a change in your loved one’s demeanor during the winter months, encourage and assist them with remaining active and engaged with family. Other ways to combat the symptoms of SAD include taking brisk walks on sunny days; engaging in puzzles and board games; eating well-balanced meals rich in Vitamin D and other nutrients; or investing in a light therapy box for when dreary, colder days hit.
Light therapy emits a spectrum of light intended to simulate natural sunlight. A good quality light box will come with a filter that blocks harmful UV rays so that the light does not damage a person’s eyes or skin. Research has shown that, when used properly, a light box can help decrease the amount of melatonin (a hormone that is typically produced at night and causes drowsiness and lethargy) circulating in a person’s body and regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin and epinephrine.
Getting out of the house and engaging socially with others is also a great way to beat SAD. At YWCA Bethlehem’s Adult Day Services Center, seniors have an opportunity to socialize with others, make new friends and stay busy doing fun activities while their caregivers can do the same by having the opportunity to meet up with friends for lunch, hit the gym or see a movie.
Caregivers should always consult their loved one’s physician to receive an official diagnosis and treatment plan.
5 Tips to Beat the Winter Blues
- Let There Be Light! Vitamin D from natural light can dramatically improve mood. Make it a daily habit to open those blinds and curtains and enjoy the natural light.
- An Apple a Day… Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals with the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, dairy, fruits and vegetables is a natural way to boost your energy and mood and keep the doctor away.
- Road Trip? Plan to visit with family and friends—looking forward to visiting with grandchildren or friends can create positive feelings and excitement. Can’t get out of the house due to weather? Schedule a “virtual” road trip and Skype or Facetime loved ones to stay connected.
- Let’s Get Physical! Exercise is proven to combat stress, increase metabolism and boost mood. Stretching, walking Tai Chi, chair yoga and lifting light hand weights are easy ways seniors can exercise daily
- Senior Day Care: Enroll your loved one in a high quality Adult Day Services Center where they can interact with others, make new friends, participate in crafts and other engaging activities and get out of the house and away from their normal routine for a few hours a day.
YWCA Bethlehem Adult Day Services Center is open 7:30 – 5:00 Monday – Friday and offers a full day of enriching and engaging activities that include active games, crafts, cognitively stimulating word and number games, comprehension skills sharpening, community visitors such as local artists, health talks by Walgreens, ArtsQuest programming, pet therapy, music therapy, intergenerational visits, cooking club and so much more.
Contact us at our website or even better, call today to schedule your free tour! 610-867-4669 Ext 100