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How to Recognize Seasonal Depression in Seniors

January 26, 2021

The winter months bring the joy of celebrating the holiday season with friends and family members, but the shorter days and lack of sunlight can also cause mood changes for certain individuals. In some cases, these changes are significant and indicative of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), “SAD is not considered a separate disorder but is a type of depression characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting about 4 to 5 months per year.”

seasonal depression photo 2021SAD can be difficult to recognize, especially in seniors, as many symptoms are overlooked or attributed to other medical conditions. Below are several ways to detect seasonal depression in your senior loved one, especially if they are isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As always, discuss your concerns with a medical provider or primary care physician to receive an accurate medical assessment.

Related: Tips on Conquering Seasonal Depression During the Pandemic

Seasonal Depression Symptoms

Depression in seniors is often overlooked, as many symptoms are common in other medical conditions or misattributed to aging. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging to identify depression symptoms in many seniors, as feelings of lethargy or sadness can stem from not being able to take part in daily activities, having a disrupted routine or experiencing social isolation from friends and family.

If your loved one is currently isolated in a home environment or resides at a skilled nursing or senior care facility, pay particular attention to behavioral changes that seem out of the ordinary and regularly check in on your loved one. Symptoms of seasonal depression include:

• Fatigue

• Lethargy

• Social withdrawal

• Insomnia

• Changes in daily habits/personal hygiene

• Change in temperament (increased irritability, sadness, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness)

• Changes in appetite or weight

• Restlessness and agitation

• Anxiety

• Additional physical and psychological changes

Related: 5 Signs of Depression in Seniors

Seasonal Depression Treatments

Treatment for seasonal depression varies depending on an individual’s specific needs. However, several treatments for seasonal depression include:

• Light therapy

• Antidepressant medications

• Vitamin D supplements

• Talk therapy

• Social support

An effective long-term treatment plan might include one or more of the listed forms of care. In addition to the treatments listed above, a healthy diet, practicing mindful forms of exercise and spending time engaging in enjoyable activities can help overcome seasonal affective disorder. If your loved one is isolated at home due to COVID-19, or a resident at a skilled nursing or personal care facility, engaging in these forms of self-care can be more difficult. However, communicating regularly with your loved one through FaceTime, Skype or calling over the phone can give you an indication about how your loved one is feeling. Additionally, you can help your loved one by sending care packages filled with their favorite foods, different activities and family photos.

If your senior loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, there are resources available to help. Consult with your doctor, a family member or friend and know that you can call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK at any time. For information about our senior care communities and services at our locations in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and Tampa, Florida, visit our locations map or call our headquarters any time at 724-352-1571. For information about our home care and health services, visit the home and community services page of our website. You can also message us through our online contact form.

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