Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Elderly: How In-Home Care Can Help Seniors Combat the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Elderly How In-Home Care Can Help Seniors Combat the Winter Blues

Cold, dark winter months can lead to depressive symptoms in seniors who live at home. Even if your elderly loved one hasn’t been diagnosed with clinical depression, less sunlight and shorter days may lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD vary greatly, but if you notice your loved one exhibiting the following behaviors during wintertime, they may be suffering from SAD:

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities and hobbies
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of hopelessness

While SAD can affect people of all ages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that seniors are at greater risk for developing depression— especially if they also have chronic illnesses that lessen their mobility. But in-home companion care workers can help your elderly loved one reduce SAD symptoms and even decrease their risk of developing this often-debilitating mood disorder. Here’s how. 

Provide Social Interaction

Many seniors want to age in their own homes to maintain their independence, but while they may be physically healthy, they can still experience loneliness that could lead to SAD. Home care companions can give your senior loved one the social interaction they need to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Companion care offers plenty of opportunities for social engagement including regular conversation, friendship, support with hobbies and help with chores. 

Establish Healthy Sleep Routines

A proper sleep routine is essential for optimal mental health. According to Harvard Medical School, when we don’t get enough sleep, we are more prone to developing SAD, anxiety and other mood disorders. If you have noticed that your elderly loved one isn’t getting the rest they require, an in-home senior companion can help them establish healthy bedtime and morning routines to improve sleep quality. 

Prepare Healthy Meals

A deficiency in vitamin D can greatly affect mental health and lead to seasonal depression. Because the days are shorter and colder during winter months, seniors may not get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight. A personal care aide can ensure that your loved one gets enough vitamin D and other mood-boosting nutrients at every meal. Nutrient-dense foods are the safest way for seniors to obtain enough vitamin D naturally without posing a hazard to their health.

Keep Exercise on Track

In-home care can also help seniors manage or avoid SAD by providing consistent opportunities for exercise. Studies show that people who exercise daily have lower rates of depression than those who aren’t physically active. This is largely due the boost of serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals that exercise provides. A senior home companion can work with your loved one’s physician or physical therapist to make it possible for them to do stretches, aerobics, wheelchair exercises and yoga in the comfort of their own home. They can also accompany your loved one on walks during daytime hours and provide transportation to supervised exercise classes designed specifically for seniors.

In-Home Companion Care for Seniors

Whether your senior loved one is lonely, needs help preparing nutritious meals or just needs a friendly nudge to keep up with a safe exercise routine, an in-home caregiver or aide can be just what the doctor ordered to improve their mental health and wellbeing all season long. Contact us today for a home health care assessment.