For many, the “winter blues” are a difficult time and it can strike in people of all ages causing symptoms of depression, energy and interest loss or low attention span and can last all winter long. These symptoms can begin due to lack of sunshine and more hours of darkness, and can bring on the condition Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a more serious and concerning problem and in some cases may require medical treatment. This is particularly concerning for the elderly, as they are more often than not house bound during the winter months due to the bad weather and dark nights, this will mean that they are less mobile, active and incapable of doing certain things on their own. With the dark nights comes a drop in room temperature, which can bring on mood swings in the elderly as the older body will struggle to adjust to the change in the early winter period more so than the younger body.
Luckily, there are some steps which I will discuss below which can help with any case of the “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder. These tips will help you to improve the physical and mental health of you or an older person that you may know.
Catch Some Rays
As we know, the further into winter we go the darker the days become, it is very important that elderly people get enough sunlight in the day as frequent rays will help us feel more energised throughout the day along with making us feel more enthusiastic about the festive period. If getting out into the sun will be a hassle for you, you could always try getting a “Light Box” a Light box is used to assist people suffering from SAD, it will mimic the suns boosting rays and when used for long enough research shows that it can help the elderly dramatically if they are deprived from sunlight.
Maintain “Winter Hygiene”
With the cold and dark nights in full flow, this only brings along with it cold and flu season. If you are to become sick over the winter period, it can only make things twice as annoying and unpleasant for the elderly. Head over to our recent blog “Beating the Flu Season – Carers & Patients” to find out more about staying healthy at these times of year http://irishhomecare.ie/blog/beating-flu-season-carers-patients/
Maintain a Healthy Diet
The colder and dark nights of winter can force us to go in to hibernation like state, which in turns gives us cravings for foods that are bad for our bodies in general like take-away, crisps, sweets and so on. It is vital that elderly people watch what they eat over the winter period as over indulgence of these bad foods can have a very bad impact on their health.
Exercise the Mind
As I have stated above, the elderly may not be as physically active in the winter months as other times of year however, this is not to say that they can’t keep their mind active. A great way of doing this is having regular mental exercises; this can be achieved by a number of things! One is family games, which is ever popular in the winter months and coming up to Christmas; these could be crosswords, puzzles or whatever you may enjoy doing. Another way to keep the mind fit and healthy is, if you know you are going to be often house bound over the winter months it would be a great idea to take up a new hobby or interest to keep yourself stimulated. It will give the mind something to focus on as well as being a good conversation starter and time waster! All of which will continuously help beat the winter blues. Never forget, you can never be too old to take up a new hobby or interest within your capabilities and this can be seen to be “free treatment” for elderly people suffering from SAD.
Exercise the Body
Exercise for anybody, young or old is essential in improving all elements of your life. But, particularly for the elderly who may suffer from SAD, exercise is somewhat of a god send as research over many years has shown us that if you keep active, you will dramatically increase your overall health, mental sharpness and decrease your vulnerability to illness. Walking can be an excellent form of exercise for the elderly and when the weather is too inclement to venture outside, many shopping malls have scheduled walking times in the early morning hours which means you can get your daily mile in wherever you go.
For the elderly, maintaining an active social calendar and networking with their friends is of vital importance and a great way for them to enjoy themselves and help the winter season pass by. Encourage them to continue to do the things they enjoy or get them to try something different as a change of pace to spice up the routine as I have stated above new hobbies or interests can go a long way. Social engagement is a recognized health booster for all seasons, but it can be especially beneficial in the dark days of winter when our spirits can be low and our energy begins to dip.
You must remember that the “Winter Blues” will not last for ever, and before long you will be out basking in the spring sunshine, walking the dog or whatever you may do! For now, take advantage of what you can! Grab yourself a good hot chocolate, movie or book and watch the snow fall out the window while you still can!
How Care Givers Can Help
Professional caregivers like the ones here at CarePoint should be aware of any symptoms that indicate the senior is suffering from the “winter blues”. This includes fatigue, sadness, lack of interest, and mood changes like I have discussed above. Ways you can combat these feelings in the elderly are:
If, after doing all of the above tips to try and combat the “Winter Blues” the condition does not improve or gets worse, encourage the person and their family to seek medical advice or avail of a home care service in order to get your elderly loved one through the winter period without any trouble.