Winter has officially arrived and while it may bring holidays and great feasts, it also brings new challenges for senior citizens in Houston. Of course there is the colder weather which makes for stiffer bones, but there is also the common occurrence of seasonal depression, also commonly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Oftentimes, seniors are particularly vulnerable to this type of depression due to their age-related mental and physical changes, as well as the decreased amount of natural sunlight that comes with winter.
If you’re a caregiver for a senior loved one, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of SAD so you can recognize when your loved one is struggling.
Common symptoms include:
Feeling down, depressed or hopeless most of the day
Low energy or fatigue
Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
Social withdrawal and isolation
Appetite changes and weight gain or loss
Sleeping too much or too little
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Thoughts of death or suicide
If your senior loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms during the winter months, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.
But there are also several things you can do to help your loved one cope with SAD:
The lack of natural sunlight during winter can contribute to SAD. It’s important to encourage your senior loved one to get outdoors for at least a few minutes each day. Even if it’s cloudy or cold outside, spending time in nature can be extremely beneficial to their mood. Encourage them to take a walk to a nearby park and just sit on the bench and read. Take in the sights and sounds that nature has to offer. Even in winter, birds will be chirping and there will be others enjoying the park and if they’re lucky, maybe a dog or two will come by and say hello.
Social isolation is a common symptom of SAD. Make sure your senior loved one has plenty of opportunities for socialization throughout the winter months. This could include joining a local seniors group or having friends over for dinner or even game night.
Encourage your senior loved one to start a new book and find a book club to join. This is a great opportunity to pick up a new hobby, and have fun discussing the book with new friends.
Exercise releases endorphins that can help combat depression and lift moods. Make sure your senior loved one is getting regular physical activity throughout the winter months – even if it’s just a short walk around the neighborhood each day.
Eating nutrient-rich foods can help boost energy levels and fight off feelings of sadness and depression. Make sure your senior loved one is getting plenty of healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates in their diet throughout the winter months.
Seek Professional Help
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if your senior loved one is showing signs of SAD. A mental health professional can provide them with counseling, medication and other treatments that may help lift their mood during this difficult season.
Taking care of an elderly person who is struggling with seasonal depression can be difficult, but there are ways to help them cope with this difficult time in their life.
Be sure to pay attention to any signs that they may be struggling and don’t hesitate to seek professional help when necessary so they can get the care they need during this difficult season.
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