Now that we’ve all stopped complaining about the excessive heat, be aware that the change in seasons can bring on an unexpected change in mood. Seniors are especially at risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression, particularly if they have a predisposition for mood disorders.
Mental health professionals believe a lack of sunlight and hormone fluctuations result in this cyclical form of depression that often lifts when the seasons change. Researchers think that shorter days interrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. An imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and melatonin may contribute to sleep irregularity and depression.
Isolation, boredom, restricted mobility, chronic health conditions, and medication can all magnify feelings of depression that many elderly experience. According to the NIH, seniors affected by SAD may exhibit social withdrawal, lethargy, decreased interest in activities, increased appetite and weight gain.
There are simple measures that may help your loved one transition more smoothly into the winter months.
Introduce as much natural light into the environment where they spend most of their time. If sunlight is sparse, you can purchase a “light box” that emits UV rays. These boxes have proved to be effective for helping to correct chemical imbalances.
A nutritional diet and physical exercise can also reduce the symptoms of SAD.
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that has been linked to bone health, incontinence prevention, diabetes prevention, as well as stabilizing mood. Ask your doctor if taking supplements is appropriate and safe, as it might interact with other medications.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your loved one spending time outdoors. In all but the harshest of conditions, breathing fresh air and being in sunlight can be extremely beneficial.
As a last resort, you might consider seeking professional help and having them prescribe an anti-depressant. There are also homeopathic treatments that have proven to be very effective.
Awareness is the first step in any kind of potential intervention. Be sensitive to your loved one’s disposition and be proactive if you sense any changes that may affect their well being.