February 24, 2024
Thankful & Grateful
In the midst of holiday cheer and festivities, we often neglect those who don’t have it the easiest during this time of the year. It’s not uncommon for the fall and winter seasons to affect someone’s overall mood with their shortened days and colder weather. With that comes the risk of sprouting mental health concerns that come with isolation and a lack of exposure to sunlight, people, and typical stimulant activities. Especially in the elderly population who aren’t always able to take care of themselves and their social lives, these concerns can manifest as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.
The symptoms may be abrupt in the elderly as the seasons change. They may manifest as sudden changes in behavior and mood or a lack of motivation to interact with their surroundings. In addition, they possibly could lose appetite, experience fatigue, or be more prone to agitation. This is due to a hormonal shift that comes with a decrease in sun during daylight savings along with the inability to leave the house as often to avoid getting ill under inclement weather. SAD is adjacent to various types of depression, so it’s important to acknowledge why your loved one is feeling this way and find out what solutions best fit their needs to help get them through these next few months.
Lifestyle alterations are the first things to consider when handling SAD in someone in your proximity’s case. How can they meet a social interaction quota without risking sickness in the cold? What activities can they engage with indoors that interest them? The seemingly insignificant aspects of regular life being pointedly reintegrated can make a huge difference in your loved one’s experience at home. Frequent visits to their home or care center either alone or with more family/friends can brighten their day. Ensuring that a caregiver checks in on them for at least an hour or two every day is another way to maintain the elderly’s connection to people and the outside world.
Other changes that can be made in their routine to benefit their mental health involve a healthier diet and increased amounts of physical activity. It’s believed that when someone’s body starts to feel healthier, their brain will follow suit. Feeding them vitamins is another aspect to think about as they may have vitamin D deficiency that is worsening their depressive tendencies. Making a conscious effort to care for their wellbeing will assist in providing the energy levels necessary to overcome any symptoms they have.
Isolation is the number one cause of the hopeless feelings associated with SAD, so this is probably the best starting place in easing the feelings associated. With company comes the opportunity to play games, watch TV, or simply read alongside them. It’s favorable to do tasks, however fun they may be, with others particularly when it feels more upsetting than usual to do them alone. Consistent socialization in the elder’s life is always important – but in this case it’s vital.
In that same vein, you can also consider senior counseling for them. Therapy and speaking to a third party may help them unpack what it is specifically about the season that causes them to fall victim to SAD. Whether it be as superficial as a drastic change in weather or as deep as trauma associated with that time of year, the knowledge of the cause makes it all the easier to treat it. The counselor then can prescribe appropriate coping mechanisms without bias and as such become another point of human contact for the elderly.
That being said, be sure to check in on the elderly in your life as the holidays begin. They deserve to feel joy and care all year. The cold weather doesn’t have to feel daunting when you can fill it with the warmth of companionship and love. Make the effort to tackle SAD face on alongside them and you’ll find that the holidays can be happier than ever.
Article Written by: Ryshel Constantino
Images from Unsplash.com
Special thanks to Unsplash photographers: Gian Cescon, Marcel Straub, Helena Lopes, Etienne Girardet, Claudia Wolff, Dustin Belt, Priscilla Du Preez, Annie Spratt, Rod Long, and Abi Howard