Is your aging relative expressing more sad and worried feelings than usual during winter? Are they growing more irritable and moody the closer it gets to the holidays? It’s not out of the ordinary to guess that your elderly loved one might be struggling with a recurring depressive state known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, known by the acronym of SAD.
While cold and darkness often leave people of all ages feeling a little blue, SAD is a serious medical condition that affects a person’s mental health. Elderly adults are particularly at risk for developing SAD. If you want to help your aging relative avoid seasonal depression, learn more about the condition and what you can do to prevent it.
SAD Causes and Symptoms
While experts are not clear on what causes SAD, it has been linked to numerous triggers that help you see if your elderly loved one is at risk. In most cases, SAD is linked to reduced sunlight exposure as the daylight hours shorten in the fall and winter. Exposure to sunlight has a big effect on the body, from producing vitamin D and setting our wake/sleep patterns to triggering hormone production in the body. When there are fewer daylight hours, some people are mild to severely affected. People who live at higher latitudes are more likely to develop SAD than those at lower latitudes. SAD is also more likely to occur in females than males.
The symptoms of SAD are similar to clinical depression.
They can include lethargy, mood swings, loss of appetite or increased appetite, insomnia, feelings of helplessness, irritability, lack of focus, sadness, and thoughts of suicide. Because you may already see some similar behaviors in your aging relative due to other health conditions or age-related behaviors, it can sometimes be difficult to identify SAD. Many seniors with SAD go undiagnosed and untreated because of this.
As with clinical depression, SAD can be effectively treated with a multi-phase approach. First, your aging loved one needs a strong support network of family members, home care providers, friends and doctors. They also need to live a healthy lifestyle, with proper nutrition, regular activity, no smoking, proper management of any health issues and restful sleep.
With relation to sunlight exposure, seniors should accompany family caregivers or home care providers on outdoor excursions as the weather permits. Even a few minutes of direct exposure of skin to sunlight can help. A doctor can recommend a light box, a device with light bulbs that mimic natural sunlight. Seniors need to sit in front of it for a set time each day to reap the benefits.
Finally, seniors may need to meet with a therapist and work on the mental aspect of seasonal depression. They may need to take antidepressants as well in moderate to severe cases. The good news is that using a combination of treatments, elderly adults can reduce the impact of SAD in their lives and avoid serious mental and physical health issues as a result.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Senior Care in Eufaula, AL, please contact the caring staff at Wiregrass HomeCare today. Call us at 334-539-5900.