As the days grow shorter and the air outside gets colder, families and caregivers may worry about slips, falls, and hypothermia affecting their elder loved ones. However, a more common and damaging affliction touches many older people across the country. It’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SAD). According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 6.5 million Americans over the age of 55 suffer with some degree of this type of depression.
Winter months exacerbate depression. The shortened hours of daylight makes driving more difficult for some, and snow and ice make the roads much more dangerous. Furthermore, it can be difficult to visit aging family members due to the weather, leading them to feel more isolated and secluded. Any or all of these factors bring Seasonal Affective Disorder into the lives of seniors across America. Symptoms can include a loss of energy, social withdrawal, loss of interest in hobbies, and sleeping more than usual.
Regular in-home caregivers can help ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder. On a most basic level, the very presence or expectation of a regular visit by a caregiver can boost the spirits of an older person living alone. The caregiver has the opportunity to gauge the temperament of their patient. A change in mood or other symptoms of depression can be identified and addressed. A senior is more able to seek treatment when advised to do so by a regular caregiver who has their trust and friendship.
In addition to providing medical assistance, and/or physical support around the house, in-home caregivers can encourage participation in activities at home or at various community organizations. Along with preparing meals and keeping the household clean, the emotional support of a trusted caregiver does wonders for a senior braving the colds of winter while living on their own.
Sometimes, Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused by not getting enough sunlight. People stay indoors when it’s cold and snowy outside and that means they are not getting enough Vitamin D that is provided by the sun. Vitamin D is an important vitamin for seniors and has been proven to help prevent cancer, diabetes, and improve bone strength. Older people’s bodies are not as efficient at using sunlight for Vitamin D so it is important to take supplements.
When the days are short and it is dark for longer periods of time, caregivers and family members need to ensure that their seniors are well cared for. A regular visit does wonders, if only to ensure that they’re eating hot meals and getting their Vitamin D. A deck of cards will help pass the time and provide entertainment as will watching a classic film. There are many ways to brighten a senior’s life during the dark months of winter.