Treat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in Seniors
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common but temporary mental health condition that - as the name suggests - occurs during a change of season. SAD mostly affects people during the fall and winter months between October and February as the days get shorter, weather gets gloomier and temperatures get colder. The symptoms of SAD may look a lot like depression with moodiness and behavioral changes, but there are a few ways to fight the depressive episodes.
Though we are blessed with temperate California weather, even a mild change in temperature or weather conditions may trigger the onset of SAD. It's important to know that SAD can affect anyone at any age. So although it's common, there are several ways to recognize and treat it. However, it can be hard to discover SAD in our elderly community, either due to other existing mental health conditions, the natural cognitive decline of aging, or because the symptoms are similar to other depressive disorders.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
The easiest way to identify SAD is to be aware of mood changes during seasonal transitions, but there are other indicators that may present:
Reduced energy or emotional reactions
Fewer conversation or interactions with people
Little or no interest in regular activities and hobbies
Quicker fatigue or tiredness
Longer sleep periods
Frustration, agitation, short temper
Confusion or lack of focus
Changes in diet, exercise, weight or appearance
Remember that some of these symptoms may not be from SAD, but rather stem from other illnesses. It's useful to check-in regularly on your older family members and if you notice any drastic behavioral changes, you should consult a geriatric care manager or primary care physician in case there are more serious concerns.
Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Worse for Seniors?
Although SAD can be seen in people of all ages, seniors are generally assumed a higher risk. This is due to pre-existing or chronic conditions that may worsen as a result of SAD. Reduced mobility and colder weather can make socializing a bit harder for seniors. Feelings of loneliness or helplessness are exacerbated and can turn into frustration and restlessness. Another cause of SAD could be attributed to the decrease in daylight hours, which means a reduced intake of Vitamin D, a mood and energy regulator that can be deficient in older adults. You should also be aware of any mental illnesses like Alzheimer's that may instill feelings of confusion or uncharacteristic moodiness.
How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder in Seniors
SAD is a commonly treatable and usually temporary mental condition. If you've identified some of the symptoms and are fairly certain that SAD is negatively impacting your senior's wellbeing, there are a few methods to help alleviate the effects.
Seasonal-themed activities like holiday parties
Light therapy as recommended by a doctor or senior care consultant
Short trips outdoors
More family and friend visits
Healthy diet focusing on energy levels
My experience working with older adults can help identify and treat the effects of SAD, especially around the winter months. Schedule a free initial consultation with me, or call (424)333-0081.