The wintertime can bring some occasional blues to all of us, but it can be especially hard for older adults. Whether it’s due to the cold weather and darker nights, the holidays ending, or being far from family, feelings of loneliness and depression can creep up during this time. Many seniors experience this as the cold weather can limit their outdoor activities, mobility, exposure to sunshine, and more. While these times can be difficult, there are many things you can do to help your senior beat their seasonal sadness. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 5 things you can do to get your senior through the winter blues.
Be Aware of “SAD”
During the winter, the concerns for the elderly usually include falls and hypothermia, but another thing to look out for is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that cycles with the seasons, typically affecting people in the winter. While the winter months can bring feelings of sadness to anyone, when those symptoms persist for a long time, it becomes a cause for concern.
As the weather gets colder and daylight becomes scarce, your senior may begin feeling symptoms of depression. A decline in the amount of daylight during winter affects circadian rhythms and causes hormonal changes that lead to depressive symptoms in people with SAD(opens in a new tab). These effects can be increased in those who cannot regularly spend time outdoors, which can especially affect seniors who are house-bound.
Some signs to look for are change in appetite and sleeping habits, loss of energy, lack of interest in activities and socialization, and irritability. If your elderly loved one exhibits symptoms of SAD, take them to their physician to receive advice and treatment. A doctor may instruct them to use light therapy by sitting in front of a lightbox daily, or even get ample time outside each morning, as every little bit helps.
Brighten Their Home
One of the main causes of seasonal sadness is the lack of sunlight exposure. Vitamin D deficiency can cause depressed moods and is quite dangerous for elderly adults. Receiving vitamin D from natural light can enhance your mood and improve your mental health.
Opening the curtains or blinds on windows daily can let some sunlight into your loved one's home. If there are things blocking sunlight from entering their house like bushes or trees, you can offer to trim them down or hire someone to do it for them.
Finally, if they still feel they are lacking sunlight, make an effort to get your senior out of the house into the daylight. You can schedule daily walks outside with one another, or just sit outside and talk for 30 minutes.
Visit More Often
Another factor that contributes to sadness in older adults is isolation. If your loved one lives apart from your family, they could experience feelings of loneliness. These feelings can be difficult to handle for seniors, and can often lead to prolonged feelings of depression.
If you can, safely set up a recurring time for your family to visit your loved one. Seeing family and socializing with loved ones can have a big impact on a senior’s mental health. If you cannot make the trip out to them, try getting them a smart device they can use to video chat with the family.
Video chats can be done much easier than physically making the trip, and it could even be a safe alternative if you are worried about transferring any sickness to your elderly loved one. If your senior loved one can stay in touch with family and feel included, they may feel less alone.
Keep Them On A Healthy Diet
ating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for older adults, as it can boost energy, enhance your mood, and improve overall mental health. A diet consisting of the right protein, carbohydrates, dairy, fruits, and vegetables can give your body the nutrients it needs to function well.
Encourage the older adult in your life to cut down on processed foods or unhealthy snacks, and join you in a healthier lifestyle. Some ways that you can ensure your loved one eats a well-balanced diet are:
- Buy them healthy groceries
- Invite them to eat healthy dinners with you often.
- Prepare healthy meals for them so they can eat throughout the week.
- Help them organize their pantry and ensure they keep healthy snacks around.
A nutritional diet not only helps your body feel better, but it improves your overall mood as well.
Get Them a Home Companion
As a busy adult yourself, you may not have time to take care of your elderly loved one or offer them the company they require. A home companion can lessen the load by offering companion services such as housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation, and more. Many seniors require day-to-day assistance, but not all family members can offer that themselves. Getting your senior a helping hand will not only allow them to get things done, but it will give them another person to socialize with and depend on.
Gallagher Home Care is happy to provide companionship services. Your home companion will be able to ensure that your senior eats a healthy diet, gets to where they need to go, spends enough time outside, and offer a kind, listening ear. By having someone else to talk to and do productive activities with, your loved one will certainly feel cared for and content.
Being up in age can be difficult, and it makes the winter blues even harder to handle. As long as you are taking steps to ensure that your elderly loved one receives the help they need to get outside, eat healthy, complete daily tasks and feel supported, they should be able to make it through the winter just fine. If your loved one needs at-home care, Gallagher Home Care can help.
Gallagher Home Care is a Medicare-certified home health agency that serves across 8 Pennsylvania counties. Our employees are dedicated to providing exceptional, compassionate care to seniors while allowing them to keep their independence. We provide respite care, companion care, housekeeping, home safety monitoring, and even provide free in-home evaluations for new families. Request an appointment online or call (412) 453-8082 to learn more.