Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that affects all ages, but the older adult population may be more at risk. Unlike depression, which can happen year-round, SAD is most common in the winter months where Vitamin D deficiency can have damaging effects on mental and physical health.
Seniors, being a more at-risk population for vitamin D deficiency, are particularly susceptible to SAD during the winter months. Seniors are also more likely to be isolated and have fewer social connections in the winter. These factors make it especially important to recognize the signs and symptoms of SAD and ways to prevent it.
Signs & Symptoms
Feeling down in reaction to the lack of sunlight and fading winter months may seem like an ordinary response initially. But when these feelings of sadness persist for more than a week or two, it can be a red flag. Here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- Lethargy, loss of energy, and oversleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of sadness that don’t go away
- Changes in appetite, fluctuations in weight
- Disinterest in activities, withdrawal from social situations
- Feeling worthless
Treatments and Ways to Prevent SAD
If you suspect SAD in your loved one, the first step is to visit your primary care provider— especially if you’ve noticed changes in your sleep or appetite. Here are some non-medical changes in your daily routine that can help combat feelings of SAD:
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Eat a healthy diet high in vegetables, lean protein, and fruits. Limit or eliminate simple sugars and sodas.
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day. This can be low impact exercises such as walking, yoga, or swimming.
- Talk to your PCP about light therapy: using an indoor sunlamp to mimic the effects of natural sunlight.
- Spend more time with family and friends. Utilize video calls on your phone or tablet.
- Increase vitamin D consumption in the forms of sunlight (when available), supplements, and foods rich in vitamin D.
Remaining at home and independent can be extremely liberating, but also isolating. Our Happier at Home caregivers are there to help when feeling those wintertime blues.