Signs of winter depression in our elderly and ways to tame the disorder
Changes in the season can trigger depression and mood swings in our elderly. While many of us can adjust to seasonal changes, our elderly often find it difficult to remain active and cheerful. Often described as a seasonal affective disorder, winter depression can affect our elderly’s health.
Winter months may seem gloomy and can dampen the spirits of our elderly parents. If you notice that your parents become gloomy and cannot perform their daily tasks by themselves, but, they seem to become their usual selves during other seasons, it indicates that they may suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Unfortunately, we may often tend to ignore the symptoms of winter depression, but seeking treatment at the right time, can prevent the condition from worsening.
Causes of winter depression
While the seasonal affective disorder can occur in any season, the winter season is the one that affects the elderly the most. The exact cause of winter depression is not known, but it is believed that less sunlight can be a significant contributing factor. In addition, it is thought that cloudy, short days and continuous rainfall or snowfall can significantly interfere with the body’s circadian rhythm. Moreover, such changes can also significantly alter the body’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is a brain hormone that affects our mood. A deficiency in this hormone can greatly affect the sleep and appetite of our elderly.
In addition, it is also believed that melatonin production speeds up when the days are short and there is little to no sunlight. This is because our brain produces melatonin during the night hours to enable us to sleep correctly. When there is sunlight during the daytime, the brain stops the production of melatonin, which helps keep us alert. However, during the winter season, when the days are short and dark, there is excessive production of melatonin, causing our elderly to feel sleepy and gloomy throughout the day.
Symptoms of winter depression
It is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of winter depression to initiate treatment at the right time. The following are the symptoms of winter depression:
- Change in the appetite
- Having low energy levels
- Undue fatigue, feeling tired for no apparent reason
- Excessive desire to sleep throughout the day
- Gain in weight
- Poor concentration
- Feeling of heaviness in the arms and legs
- Loss of interest in socializing
- Lack of self-esteem
- Pain and aches in the body
- Irritable mood, anxiety, and stress
Winter depression and our elderly
It seems that our elderly loved ones are most affected by winter depression. During winter, the elderly become intolerant to cold, are less mobile, and their underlying disease conditions aggravate. In addition, due to gloomy and dark weather, the elderly are also unable to move out more freely, causing them to remain confined in their homes. Moreover, if the elderly are already suffering from depression, it is bound to worsen during the winter months. All these factors, put together, make winter depression almost an inevitable accompaniment of old age.
Tips to help seniors with seasonal depression
Seasonal depression in the elderly is a much more severe problem than one can think of. Here are specific tips that you can try to ease the symptoms of seasonal depression to make our elderly comfortable.
Natural sunlight – the natural healer
One of the best ways to combat seasonal depression is to get as much natural sunlight as possible. This would help your elderly feel more energetic and reduce the gloomy feeling. In addition, they are getting sunlight, even in small amounts, which helps dramatically improve serotonin levels, uplifting their mood. Of course, to get sunlight, the elderly must have their regular cup of coffee in the garden, provided they can keep themselves appropriately warm. During the day, you can also consider keeping the curtains open to allow maximum sunlight to enter the room.
This is one of the most common and effective methods of easing seasonal depression. There are light boxes that mimic the sunlight’s light and can help the elderly fight winter depression. Seniors must spend about half an hour each day to drive away the depression blues and feel better.
This is yet another way of driving away the blues of seasonal depression. It is highly beneficial if your elderly cane is in natural sunlight. Research has proved that exercise alone can treat mild to moderate depression, and its effectiveness is equivalent to antidepressant medications. By exercising regularly, you allow your brain to improve all the feel-good hormones like serotonin as well as endorphins. So help you’re elderly to make exercise a part of their daily routine to fight seasonal depression.
Say goodbye to stress.
Stress is one of the factors that is recognized for triggering bouts of depression. It is one of those factors that can worsen depression and make matters worse for our elderly. Therefore, as caregivers, you need to encourage your elderly to adopt ways to fight stress and keep depression at bay. Encourage your elderly to indulge in activities that give them pleasure and allow them to relax and have fun.
Depression is one condition that can make you elderly crave high-calorie and sugar-rich foods. Depression triggers one’s sweet tooth, causing the individual to reach for desserts and stuff loaded with sugar. Overconsumption of starchy and sugar-rich foods can drastically affect the mood levels of our elderly. Therefore, it would be wise enough to help our elderly make informed food choices and adhere to a well-balanced diet. A well-balanced diet would ensure that our elderly get adequate nutrients in the right amount to maintain optimum energy levels.
Winter depression is certainly not uncommon, but it is often underrated and regarded as the everyday woe of old age. However, it is much more than that, and as a caregiver, it becomes our responsibility to help our elderly fight away the winter depression blues. Being depressed, feeling low and inactive, and exhibiting the inability to carry out daily activities should not be considered normal. Any help extended at the right time can allow our seniors to enjoy the winter months gracefully. Also, here is another blog post that might help to explain why seniors are always so cold.