Tips for Seniors to Combat Winter Blues
Have you ever felt exhausted during the winter months? Perhaps you’ve found yourself saying “no” to invitations to get-togethers or have skipped out on your favorite book club discussion to come home and crash on the couch instead. Maybe you’ve even felt more depressed than usual as the days get darker and colder. The winter blues happen to most of us, including older adults.
Unfortunately, seasonal affective disorder can bring about mental and physical health challenges for older adults, especially if it goes unrecognized and untreated. Here’s what you need to know about seasonal affective disorder and how to support your aging loved one.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
The National Institute of Mental Health defines seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called seasonal depression, as depression symptoms that arrive in the late fall and winter. Symptoms typically dissipate in the spring or summer months. It’s important to note that seasonal affective disorder is not the same as depression, even though the two diagnoses share similar symptoms. The key differentiator is that seasonal affective disorder only lasts 4-5 months, while depression can last much longer.
It’s important to note that seasonal depression is not simply “the winter blues.” Instead, it is a mental health disorder that affects daily life. While it is common to feel tired or restless in the dark days of winter, if these symptoms begin affecting sleeping habits, eating habits, or overall mood each day, it is time to evaluate your symptoms with a physician.
Signs of Depression in Seniors
While anyone of any age can get seasonal affective disorder, seniors can be more vulnerable if undertreated. This is partly because seniors might gloss over their symptoms with family members or underreport their feelings with a physician. It can also be due to already poor sleeping habits, social isolation, and weather-related mobility challenges. In any case, you can empower yourself by knowing the common symptoms of depression to get help for yourself or your loved one.
Signs of depression in seniors, specifically seasonal depression, can include:
- Feeling irritable, restless, or cranky
- Sleep disturbances include sleeping too much or not sleeping enough
- Eating changes, including overeating or undereating
- Choosing to isolate from friends and family
- Feeling anxious daily
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Loss of interest in favorite hobbies or activities
- Feeling exhausted all day long
- Decreased energy
- Having challenges with staying focused on tasks
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you notice these signs in yourself or your loved one, and your daily life is affected, make an appointment to speak to a physician. During your meeting, talk candidly about how you feel and the onset of symptoms. Seasonal affective disorder is treatable, and you can find some relief this winter and be more prepared for next year’s onset.
How to Support Your Loved One
If your loved one lives with depression in the winter months, here are a few ways you can support them:
- Schedule transportation to physician appointments or attend the meeting with them
- Set up prescription medication delivery as needed
- Take note of symptoms you observe and share with them and their physician
- Stop by for regular check-ins or call them on the phone to see how they are feeling
- Encourage them to get outside even for a few moments each day
- Purchase them a houseplant as a project to care for throughout the winter months
- Schedule Meals on Wheels or other meal delivery services
For many older adults, depression can increase when isolated from family members and friends. Senior living communities can provide extra connection and caregiver support in winter and beyond. Contact a residence near you to learn more about Legend Senior Living and how our services support overall wellness.