Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is linked to the changing seasons and decreased sunlight. The most common type of SAD begins as fall transitions into winter and ends as spring begins. The decreased amounts of daylight in the fall/winter season saps energy and increases moodiness. Some people suffer from SAD during the spring and summer, but it is less common.
As with all types of depression, it may be difficult to diagnose at first. However, if a senior in your care consistently complains of feeling blue, is lethargic and uninterested in activities, you should consider whether seasonal affective disorder is causing the symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Problems getting along with other people
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Heavy, “lead” feeling in the arms or legs
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Agitation or anxiety
If these symptoms are persistent and cannot be lifted by participating in activities or spending time with people, it is time to see a doctor. If your loved one begins to turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, that is a red flag and a doctor needs to be consulted.
Home Care Assistance can help you with a loved one who may be suffering with SAD. Our Balanced Care Method™ is scientifically designed to foster well-being and a healthy body, mind and spirit. Each of our caregivers is trained in this method and particularly well suited to help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. Our caregivers always will develop a personalized plan of care with one-to-one support tailored to the status, conditions, preferences, hobbies and lifestyle of the individual. If SAD is a factor, then each day’s activities will be tailored to address it and support treatment.
Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications. Talk to your doctor to ask which is most appropriate for your loved one.
There are also things that you can do if your loved one experiences the symptoms of SAD:
- Make the home sunnier and brighter. Open the curtains and blinds. Trim any trees that may block the sunlight and wash the windows.
- Get outside. Take a walk with your loved one when it is sunny. Even on cold days, you can bundle them up and sit for a brief time in the sun.
- Exercise regularly. Walking may be difficult in the winter, however indoor exercise (like a track) can be just as beneficial. Other exercises like yoga may also help ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. These steps can help you manage seasonal affective disorder.
The winters can be long and cold and it can be very difficult to avoid SAD altogether. However, seeking as much light as possible and participating in activities that engage your loved one will go a long way toward addressing the symptoms and moving them toward the light of spring.