Help! My Elderly Parent Has Seasonal Affective Disorder

When the weather turns chilly and gray, many Americans feel worse inside for reasons they can’t explain.
Many suffer from a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. This is a psychiatric condition that is most often found in people that live in higher latitudes and is a form of depression. Elderly adults are at a higher risk of developing SAD due to health and mobility issues.


Home Care in Vaughan: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Home Care in Vaughan: Seasonal Affective Disorder


Because it is a type of depression, SAD shares many of the typical symptoms.
Common warning signs of SAD in seniors include lethargy, mood swings, chronic sadness, feelings of emptiness, change in appetite, insomnia, irritability, and social withdrawal. Scientists believe that as much as 6 percent of Americans struggle with SAD, and it typically affects those who live at higher altitudes where the shorter daylight hour are more pronounced.


The cause of SAD is not yet known, although it has been linked to the body’s reduced exposure to sunlight and seasonal changes.
From the production of vitamin D to the setting of our circadian rhythms, sunlight influences a person’s health and wellness. Seniors who are not mobile and depend on family caregivers and senior care providers already have reduced exposure to the outdoors and sunlight. When winter hits, housebound elderly adults are at a high risk of developing SAD.


Treatment for SAD in seniors requires some extra effort by family caregivers and senior care providers.
Doctors often recommend an increase in activity, especially in ways that promote exposure to sunlight. Short walks, sitting in front of sunlit windows, car rides, and bright light therapy are all ways that elderly adults can boost the exposure to vital sunlight.


Many seniors with SAD also need psychotherapy to work through how they think and react to things that cause them unhappiness. They work to alter their behavior and reduce their symptoms of depression. Often, the elderly adult will take antidepressants if their reactions are serious enough. It’s important that family caregivers and senior care providers remind elderly adults to take their medicine, as skipping doses can have serious side effects.


One of the most important things that senior care providers and family caregivers can do to help an aging adult resist the effects of SAD is to make some lifestyle changes.

A healthy diet is extremely important when dealing with depression of any kind. Junk food, sugar, fats, and empty calories leave the body unhealthy and the immune system weakened. Healthy food and snacks are much better for the body and the mind. Regular activity and exercise is another way for elderly adults to resist depression like SAD. Exercise releases hormones that affect the brain positively. Both family caregivers and senior care providers can encourage and motivate seniors to stay active.


While SAD can be quite serious for elderly adults, it is very treatable. With the right support system of people—family members, friends, and senior care providers—elderly adults can work to overcome the effects of SAD and view the winter months with a positive outlook instead of something to worry about.


If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Home Care in Vaughan, please contact the caring professionals at Staff Relief Health Care 24/7 at (905)-709-1767.

About Susan Di Michele

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