We all deal with changes in weather and climate in different ways. However, for a certain part of the population, shorter days with less sunlight and cloudy days can be problematic. This can be exacerbated in the elderly population as they are limited already in their ability to go outside and access sunlight.
If you find that at certain times of the year, your loved one seems to have less energy, changes in appetite or sleep, irritability, or loss of interest in socializing and other activities, it might be Seasonal Affective Disorder as opposed to depression, as these symptoms are similar to depression. It’s helpful to talk to a loved one about this, if he or she is able to share thoughts or feelings. You can certainly take them to the doctor and talk with the physician about your observations and what your loved one is noting as well.
Ways you can help include:
- Light Therapy: Use a light box if they do not have access to ample sunlight. Daily exposure to sunlight -at least about 20-30 minutes is very helpful- if your loved one has the time and the physical help to get outside and the weather permits. We all know that as we age, we’re more susceptible to feeling uncomfortable in cold weather. This can deter elderly people from wanting to go outside. If they can sit in a heated sun room, that is better than a darkened living room.
- Vitamin D: Making sure that their diet has vitamin D in it is helpful as well. When they do access the sunlight, their bodies will have a better chance of converting and absorbing the vitamin D and being healthier overall.
- Reminders: They will need you to encourage them to “get out into the sunshine” and help them make this happen on a regular basis if they have cognitive or physical deficits, which prevent them from doing this on their own. It might be that you ask a caregiver to make this part of your loved one’s routine, you call and remind your loved one, or you actually go to where your loved one lives and help them “soak up some sunshine.”
- Relocation: If your loved one happens to live in a geographic area of the country that has significantly more cloudy and gloomy days than other areas and you find that this is a significant problem for them, it might be that if you live in a sunnier area, they can move closer to you.
For the last decade, Amy Hane has been committed to serving the CSRA community by guiding those going through mental, physical and social issues related to caring for an aging or disabled loved one. She assists families with transitions to higher quality care for the safety and wellbeing of all involved.
Amy holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina, is a licensed Master Social Worker in South Carolina and Georgia, an Advanced Professional Aging Life Care Manager and also a Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager.