Are the short, dark days getting your senior loved ones down?
“The short, dark days do more than usher in more than winter weather,” said Sierra Goetz, co-founder and operations manager for the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN). “During the winter months, many seniors begin to feel down. Freezing temperatures , ice and snow may limit their ability to get out and about, so it’s not uncommon for them to start feeling isolated and lonely – especially if they live alone.”
Ward Off Winter Blues
To help ward off the winter blues, experts offer these tips:
Brighten the home.
Vitamin D from natural light can help improve mood, so open blinds and curtains.
Anticipate an event.
Always have something to look forward to, such as visits from friends or grandchildren.
Eat a balanced.
Eating the right combination of proteins, carbs, dairy, fruits and vegetables is a natural way to boost mood and energy.
Stick to a schedule.
Do not avoid activities and opportunities for socialization. Stick to a regular schedule.
Exercise can be vital to mood improvement during the winter months. Some simple exercises that can be done indoors include stretching, yoga, mall walking (or walking the halls of your apartment building or community) and lifting light weights.
Accomplish a goal.
Big or small, add a goal to the to-do list, and cross it off when it’s finished.
Socialize with others.
Being around others almost always lifts spirits and shifts perspective. Join a church group, volunteer or start a book club with friends – anything that keeps the connected to friends and family.
Companionship is Important
“Companionship is so important for seniors,” Goetz said. “At HCAN, we understand that distance, work and family obligations might limit the amount of time friends and family members can spend with their aging loved ones – that’s why we provide companionship services. Whether it’s watching old movies, looking at photo albums or playing a board game, our professional caregivers love spending quality time with our clients – helping ward off feelings of isolation and loneliness.”
Signs of Depression
If your senior starts showing signs of sadness or depression, and it lasts more than a week or two, mental health professionals say that’s a red flag and you should consult a physician. Experts at the National Institute of Mental Health advise watching for the following symptoms:
Feeling sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
Losing interest in activities once enjoyed
Having low energy and feeling sluggish
Having problems with sleep
Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
Having low energy
Having difficulty concentrating
Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Having thoughts of not wanting to live
Symptoms specific to winter-onset seasonal affective disorder (SAD) include:
Overeating – especially cravings for foods that are high in carbohydrates
Tiredness or low energy
Social withdrawal (feeling like hibernating)
For more information about depression and SAD, consult your personal physician.