How to Help Seniors Manage Seasonal Depression

How to Help Seniors Manage Seasonal Depression

Seeing summer fade away and the first colorful leaves of fall appear is an exciting time for many of us – the kids go back to school and the holidays are on the way. For seniors in a nursing home, though, the advent of a new season could be a time of sadness or depression. SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, can impact people of all ages, but seniors are particularly hard hit, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

This form of depression is prevalent in fall and winter and may be totally absent in the longer days of summer and spring, especially in a variable climate like BIg Bear and Lake Arrowhead. SAD can leave your senior feeling depressed and alone; the signs are similar to ordinary depression, but occur each year like clockwork. Seniors can be misdiagnosed, so it is important to consider SAD if your loved one is feeling fatigued and not up to their usual level of activity. Shorter days, less sunlight and even fewer visitors to the care home (as family members return to school and work) can contribute to SAD as well.

The lack of sunlight is considered a primary cause of SAD. Shorter days and inclement or cold weather mean less time in the sun – and less Vitamin D. A Lake Arrowhead senior experiencing SAD could lose interest in socializing and hobbies and even alter their sleeping patterns. If you see the signs of SAD and they linger for more than a week or so, it is time to investigate more thoroughly.

Help for SAD Seniors

Talk to your loved one’s doctor about SAD and about the symptoms your senior is experiencing. While the effects of SAD can be profound, the interventions available are easily implemented in the assisted living setting and are swiftly effective. You may be advised to try one or more or the following:

Spend time outdoors: Lack of sunlight is a primary factor in SAD, so getting outside for a walk, even a slow one to accommodate a senior’s elder care needs, can combat the condition. If your senior is able, this can also be a valuable bonding time for the two of you.

Phototherapy: Lights are used to simulate sunlight and longer days. Personal devices or room lighting can be used and help your loved one get the light they need to avoid SAD.

Vitamin D: Your doctor could recommend a Vitamin D supplement to help your loved one cope with the changing season. Depending on the other medications your loved one takes and any medical conditions they have, this could be a fast and easy remedy.

The arrival of cool weather does not mean that your loved one needs to struggle with seasonal depression. Being aware of the possibility and available remedies can help you both feel better, year round.