With the winter months and cold weather here, caregivers and families typically worry about seniors slipping and falling. However, it’s important to be aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. It’s a form of depression that can occur throughout the year, but particularly during the Fall and Winter when the daylight hours are shorter. While it’s common to feel down during the wintertime, if it lasts more than a week, it could be SAD. The condition is worse when a person cannot get outdoors and get the positive effects of sunlight.
To treat SAD, doctors may recommend “light therapy.” This entails using a “light box,” a type of fluorescent lamp that projects light similar to natural sunlight. A high-quality light box may cost as little as $40 or as much as $200, and will include a filter to block UV rays which are harmful to a person’s eyes and skin. A light box can decrease the melatonin circulating through a person’s body, thereby fighting drowsiness. It will also regulate the balance of serotonin and epinephrine, fighting depression.
Seniors have been described as an “at-risk” group for Vitamin-D deficiency. While sunlight naturally provides Vitamin D, housebound seniors may be less able to spend time in the sun. In the winter months the sun’s rays are too weak to deliver much Vitamin D anyway. It’s an important vitamin because it helps to maintain healthy bones, prevent cancer, and diabetes. For seniors, a lack of Vitamin D can cause a dangerous reduction in bone density which can lead to broken bones.
The problem with combating a Vitamin D deficiency is that everyone is different. Some seniors are at risk of developing skin cancer, and therefore more time in the sun is not a good option. Instead, it’s important to make sure a senior is eating the right foods to get Vitamin D in their system. Milk, yogurt, and fish, especially salmon, and egg yolks contain concentrated amounts of Vitamin D. These foods can help seniors whose bodies may be less efficient in processing the vitamin. To figure out which treatment is the best option for a particular senior, a doctor’s visit may be in order.
It is important to realize that seniors suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder need assistance. Whether it means adjusting a senior’s diet or altering the daily routine to get them out in the sun, his or her quality of life will only benefit by fending off the symptoms of SAD. The stress level for caretakers will also decrease when their patient feels better.
Keep an eye on the wellbeing of a senior, and take note of their moods and potential change in habits. A happier senior enjoys a better, healthier quality of life.