Each October and November, many people begin to experience winter-onset seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Shorter days and colder temperatures can lead to what many think of as the winter blues, a short-term change of mood. For many people, however, the changing seasons have a real, physical impact. Eran Metzger, MD, explains, “SAD is caused by reduced levels of sunlight in the fall and winter months. This disrupts the body’s internal clock (called circadian rhythm), which can lead to depression.”
The majority of SAD sufferers are women between 20 and 50 years old. Although seniors make up a relatively small segment of the population that suffers from SAD, they are still at risk for depression that may be brought on or made worse by the change in seasons. Common symptoms include
- Extreme fatigue or sleepiness
- Change in appetite
- Loss of interest in hobbies or other regular activities
- Unexplained feelings of sadness or anger
These are only a few symptoms, and caregivers should be on the lookout for any signs of depression throughout the year, which may be exacerbated by the change in seasons. Degrees of depression can vary among individuals, ranging from mild to suicidal. In extreme cases, light therapy or another medical intervention such as psychotherapy or antidepressants may be necessary. Caregivers concerned about their senior clients should encourage them to consult with their physicians.
In most cases, making the following lifestyle changes can go a long way toward helping seniors avoid depression.
- Get more exposure to sunlight whenever possible, by spending time outdoors and letting natural light into the home.
- Maintain a healthy diet that limits heavy carbohydrates and sugars. A proper diet will provide essential vitamins and minerals for maintaining energy.
- Increase your physical activity. Just 30 minutes a day for three days a week can improve one’s overall health.
- Socialize with others and stay involved with hobbies and routines. Medical research has shown that avoiding isolation and loneliness significantly reduces a senior’s risk of depression and dementia.
At GoldLeaf, our many services include in-home senior care in Denver. For a free consultation to determine which services are right for you and your loved ones, contact us today.