You may have heard of someone having the winter blues, but when people experience depression related to the winter months, it might really be a medical condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Elderly adults are particularly susceptible to SAD, especially those that struggle with physical limitations and depend on family members and senior care providers for assistance.
Family caregivers should learn how to spot the signs of SAD in their elderly relatives so they can take steps to remedy the situation and boost their loved one’s quality of life during winter.
Here are some frequently asked questions about SAD and elderly adults:
Q: What exactly is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
A: SAD is a form of depression that is triggered by shorter winter days and usually lasts from late fall to early spring. It generally recurs every year, often with different intensity. Also known as seasonal depression or winter blues, SAD is a medically recognized as a mental health condition that is similar to clinical depression.
Q: What are the symptoms of SAD in seniors?
A: The symptoms for SAD in seniors includes insomnia, lethargy, irritability, mood swings, feelings of hopelessness or guilt, undereating or overeating, and thoughts of suicide. Too many of the symptoms mimic other age-related conditions, such as mononucleosis, hypothyroidism, dementia, and more. Therefore, it may be difficult for family caregivers and home care providers to recognize that SAD is an issue.
Q: What causes SAD in elderly adults?
A: While the exact causes behind SAD are unclear, there are certainly contributing circumstances that increase the likelihood and risk for someone to develop it. It is more frequent in women and is more common in areas with a higher latitude, and therefore less sunlight in the winter months. Medical experts have linked the decrease in sunlight to changes in the body’s natural functions and brain chemicals.
Q: Why are seniors at a high risk for SAD?
A: Elderly adults are already at a higher risk for depression due to age plus life circumstances. Seniors with limited mobility may not be able to engage in the type of healthy lifestyle that reduces the risk of depression. They are less likely to get regular exercise, sleep and healthy meals. Also, seniors that depend on family caregivers or senior care providers are often not mobile enough to get outdoors much, leading to infrequent exposure to natural light.
Q: How is SAD treated in seniors?
A: The good news is that SAD is quite treatable and there are several different combinations that work for most seniors. Of course, family caregivers and home care providers should help the elderly person practice good lifestyle habits with diet, exercise and sleep. Increased exposure to sunlight means more outings, and special light boxes can help when inside. Therapy and antidepressants can do a lot of good for moderate to serious cases.
If you or a loved one are in need of Senior Care Services in Catasauqua PA or the surrounding areas, contact the caring professionals at Extended Family Care of Allentown. Call today at (610) 200-6097.
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