Is your elderly loved one feeling sad or blue? If so, they may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly referred to as SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that occurs during the winter months when the days are shorter and there is a chill in the air.
The exact cause of SAD is unknown. Some mental health professionals believe it is related to the lack of sunlight. Older adults that have restricted mobility, are homebound or live in a residential community are at increased risk for SAD due to decreased exposure to natural sunlight and time spent outdoors. Symptoms may include social withdrawal, daytime sleepiness or lethargy, decreased interest in activities of interest, increased appetite especially with cravings for carbohydrates and weight gain.
Non-pharmacological treatments for SAD are simple and easy to implement: Welcoming more light into space where your loved one spends the most time. For example, move their bed or favorite chair closer to the window and open the curtains and blinds which will allow more natural sunlight into the room. Try to bring more life into space by adding a variety of plants. Accent pieces with bright colors can also be helpful. Exercise and diet play important roles too. A well-rounded diet packed with nutrients may lessen the symptoms.
Next time you visit your loved one, simply walk around indoors, but optimally if the winter weather permits, going outside can make a huge difference in their happiness and well-being. Most likely when spring rolls around and the days start getting longer, your loved one’s blues will fade away.