5 Ways Seniors and Caregivers Can Beat Winter Depression


Feeling the winter time blues? Depression is common in the winter months for both seniors and their caregivers. A percentage of the population suffers from an affliction called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD. In people with SAD, the lack of natural sunlight in the winter time upsets the sleep-wake cycle and other circadian rhythms, as well as the release of serotonin, one of the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. Fortunately, SAD is less common in seniors over 55, but the senior population may still suffer from depression at this time of year, and sundowning in patient’s with Alzheimer’s can lead to increased stress for caregivers and Alzheimer’s patients alike.

Whether you’re a senior or caring for a senior loved one, these five tips can help you beat true seasonal depression or depression that just happens to occur during the holiday season.

Get Outdoors
If you’re truly afflicted with SAD, getting outdoors and soaking in whatever natural sunlight you can will help. For seniors, outdoor means a change of scenery and environment that can stave off winter doldrums of feeling cooped up indoors. Just stay inside if the wind chill makes it feel below freezing. If you have to venture outside, bundle up. Don’t leave any part of your body exposed, since seniors are especially susceptible to frostbite.

If you can’t go for a walk in the great outdoors, the next best thing is a regular indoor exercise routine. Caregivers can even try working out, whether it’s mall walking or a beginning Zumba class, with the senior in their life.

From soup kitchens to mailing packages to soldiers or distributing toys to children in need, there are many charity organizations in need of help this time of year. Seniors and caregivers can volunteer together and both parties will get a tremendous emotional boost and a beautiful bonding experience.

Engage in Social Activities
Caregivers, even if you have to hire in-home help for a day, a night or a weekend, say “yes” to some of those social invitations, whether it’s your office holiday party, a tree-trimming gathering with friends, or a soiree with your significant other. Seniors can get involved in daycare programs and other activities at a local senior community or a local church.

But Don’t Do Too Much
While it’s important to stay socially active, the holidays can also get overwhelming. Don’t take on too much. Prioritize and decide what you can outsource or skip altogether. Do you really need to bake four different varieties of cookies, host Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas day? Choose the activities you love, and see where you can enlist the senior in your care to help, and create beautiful holiday memories together.

Similarly, don’t force the senior in your care to attend too many social activities, and be careful about how many events you plan in your own home, where they may feel overwhelmed without an easy escape. Now more than ever, the holidays are all about balance.

Speak to a Professional
There are many different levels of depression, from the holiday blues or just feeling sad this time of year, to SAD, to clinical depression. If you or the senior in your care feels hopeless, has a significant change in eating patterns, has difficulty concentrating, and is fatigued, irritable or restless, it could indicate clinical depression. Speak to a professional about treatment options so you can begin to enjoy the holiday season again.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (866) 662-0435 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.