Because the winter months bring the glitter and glow of the holidays, it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling sad or depressed. However, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a common depressive state that affects many adults this time of year. If an aging mom or dad always grows irritable, moody, weepy, or depressed from late fall to early spring, it could be that they suffer from a mental health condition like SAD.
Causes of SAD in Seniors.
While it’s not known what causes SAD in adults, medical experts have some good insight into specific triggers for it, as well as a profile of those who are most at risk. There are certainly links between shorter daylight hours and SAD, as there are more people diagnosed at higher latitudes. The decline in sunlight exposure can trigger lower vitamin D levels and affect the body’s natural rhythms and hormone production. All this, plus colder temperatures, holiday stress, and increased likelihood of common illnesses in winter leads to seniors often struggling with seasonal depression.
Women are more likely to develop SAD as well as those who don’t spend a lot of time outdoors. Seniors, who are already at a high risk for developing clinical depression, are especially likely to develop SAD. Due to age, illness, and lifestyle, elderly adults may be more prone to SAD than younger adults who are more mobile, healthy, and active. Seniors who are dependent on family caregivers and home care providers may rarely get outside and engage in activities in the winter, increasing the risk of SAD.
Treating SAD in Seniors.
Seasonal depression requires a straightforward treatment approach with a very high success rate. There are several approaches to treating SAD in elderly adults, starting with boosting healthy lifestyle habits. Family caregivers and home care providers must ensure the aging adult is eating well-balanced meals and getting proper nutrition from food and supplements under a doctor’s recommendation. Regular exercise and quality sleep are also important.
Elderly adults also need to get outdoors and exposed to natural light as often as possible. Even seniors with mobility issues can enjoy a car ride a few times per week with a family caregiver or home care provider. For bad weather days or for seniors who are bedridden, there are light boxes that simulate natural light. This light therapy is quite effective in treating SAD in seniors and they simply sit in front of it for around 45 minutes each day. Other treatment options include talk therapy and antidepressants.
It’s too easy for family caregivers and home care providers to overlook the symptoms of SAD in elderly adults because they can mimic other illnesses or chronic conditions. When fall approaches, watchful family caregivers should keep their eyes open for symptoms, then take action to make improvements.
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