Seniors vulnerable to seasonal bluesPosted on November 30, 2013 by ECR Louisville in Blog, Caregiver Education
Thank you Thomas Russell of Louisville, Kentucky for finding this article.
This column is written by experts in the aging, care giving, home health, hospice and home care fields to keep you informed about growing older.
This is the time of year when things start to change. The temperature drops, and even though we live in sunny San Diego, the sunlight that we are typically exposed to decreases in time and intensity. Most people, typically females, experience what is commonly referred to as “winter blues.” The medical terminology is SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD usually occurs the same time each year, in the fall and even into winter time. You may feel less motivated, lethargic, and want to sleep more as your normal energy levels fade — these are all associated symptoms of SAD. The chemical process that happens in our brains this time of year is the increase of melatonin which makes us want to sleep more and serotonin which affects our moods. The pineal (pie-neal) gland inside our brains is responsible for these two hormones. When the brain senses less sunlight and darkness earlier, which can be contributed to Daylight Saving Time, it produces more melatonin. Our internal clocks, or circadian rhythm, are disrupted when the level of sunlight changes.
The holiday season is right around the corner and while it is supposed to be the most wonderful time of year, for those who suffer from SAD — especially seniors — these seasonal changes can have a negative effect. Seniors may experience decreased mobility, loss of family and friends, issues involving retirement from the work force, and more. Furthermore, the cold temperatures keep individuals indoors, which leads to feelings of isolation. Unlike younger generations, the seniors of today grew up without certain coping skills. This generation is less likely to discuss with their doctor the feelings of “winter blues.” This lack of crucial coping mechanisms makes our senior population more vulnerable to anxiety, depression or situational adjustment disorders. Left untreated, these can become a serious health risk.
Mission Home Health, which provide depression in-home nursing and therapy services in San Diego, sees more cases often than any other illness or ailment. Mission has dedicated nurses who specialize in caring for persons with depression or any of the above-mentioned types of disorders. Treatments include light therapy, medications and psychotherapy. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light therapy box that shines a bright light onto you. It is designed to replicate the sunlight that you are missing and can help improve your mood. You should speak with your physician before purchasing a light box to make sure you are getting the best one for your needs.
It’s important to recognize changes in mood for not only yourself but others, so you can identify potential issues with SAD. Now is an excellent opportunity to educate yourself and family members on things to do to avoid depression and teach coping mechanisms before these feelings become serious health risks.
By Marla Bryant 6 A.M.NOV. 28, 2013
Marla Bryant is a Clinical Manager at Mission Home Health. Contact her at MBryant@missionhh.com