As autumn slowly fades away each year, it’s not uncommon for seniors in Massachusetts to experience some seasonal changes of their own. Clinically called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “SAD”, the annual onset of these winter “blahs” is brought on by reduced amounts of sunlight combined with inactivity.
Left unaddressed, SAD can cause more serious health problems, including social isolation and depression. If you’re caring for an at-home senior with the winter “blahs”, fortunately there are several proven ways to help them feel better.
What Causes SAD?
According to WebMD (www.webmd.com), SAD is triggered when a person’s brain begins working overtime to produce more of the hormone melatonin in response to less sunlight. Melatonin regulates the body’s internal “clock”, including sleep patterns. Once these seasonal melatonin abnormalities kick in, they can alter a senior’s behavior in these ways:
- Sleeping a lot more
- Not wanting to leave the house
- Unusual mood swings
- Lack of interest in normal activities and hobbies
- Rapid weight gain
If your elderly loved one exhibits these behaviors for two or more consecutive winters, they probably have SAD. On the positive side, there are some effective steps you can take as a caregiver to help them deal with the winter “blahs” whenever they roll around.
Winter “Blahs” Tips for Seniors
Here are some of the methods clinicians recommend for warding off the winter “blahs” in patients with SAD:
Get Them Out of the House
Feeling isolated while stuck in the house worsens the symptoms of SAD, so encourage your loved one to get out more. Take them shopping, drop them off for lunch with friends, or enjoy a long walk together outside.
If your senior is less mobile, arrange for visitors to stop by their home several times a week to lift-up their spirits. Ask your teenagers to swing by grandma’s house after school, or invite some of dad’s old work buddies over to visit for a few hours. Social interaction is crucial for seniors, especially during the winter months.
Try Light Therapy
Because SAD is triggered by reduced sunlight, light therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat it. Purchase an artificial light box that mimics sunlight for their home, while also encouraging your senior to sit near a bright window on sunny days.
Exercise and Massage
Various low-impact forms of exercise, like walking, chair aerobics, Yoga, or swimming are also powerful therapies for combatting the winter “blahs”. If your loved one isn’t very mobile, hire an in-home masseuse to give them a relaxing full body massage at least a couple times per month.
Avoid making fun of your loved one for feeling “down”, or otherwise trivializing their mood, because it will just make the situation worse. Instead, gently show them empathy and understanding.
Stick to a Routine
Because seasonal changes can disrupt the body’s sleep-wake cycle, try to keep your loved one on a set schedule when it comes to eating, bathing, exercising, going to sleep and waking up.
Don’t Forget Their Diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet, while avoiding sugar and alcohol as much as possible, will benefit someone with SAD. Serve your senior foods rich in vitamins and minerals, notably Vitamin D.
Offer Hygiene Assistance
Seniors with SAD oftentimes stop caring about their personal appearance. With your loved one’s permission, help them with their hair, makeup, clothing and other personal hygiene so they will always look and feel their best.
In-Home Support for Seniors with the Winter “Blahs”
Caring for an at-home senior with the winter “blahs” can be hard when you’re short on time or live too far away. When you need a break, call Cranberry Home Care. As a family owned and operated agency, our caregivers specialize in helping seniors overcome the effects of SAD so they can continue aging comfortably in place right where they want to be. Starting with healthier meals and activities, our highly trained and carefully screened aides will provide your loved one with the in-home care and support they truly deserve.
Our fully licensed caregivers also deliver family trusted services like light housekeeping, personal hygiene, medication reminders, transportation and companionship; all of which can be flexibly tailored in an affordable package to put your mind at ease. To learn more about helping a senior deal with the winter “blahs”, or to schedule a FREE, in-home care consultation with Cranberry Home Care in the Southeastern, MA, area now, please visit: www.cranberryhomecare.com!
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