Winter Depression in the Elderly

Winter depression in the elderly is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This year Covid-19 restrictions will cause higher than usual rates of seasonal depression.  seasonal depressionMany seniors have acclimated to being inside more. But limited visiting with friends, socializing, and get-together with family will increase feelings of isolation. Because it is the holiday season, interventions should be planned to minimize the effects of depression. Keep in mind, feelings of loss and grief are hightened around holidays so, be sensitive this season of festivals.

Family, friends, and doctors must be made aware of the vulnerabilities many seniors face this time of year. Seasonal sadness often worsens depression. There are several things to help alleviate feelings of depression, especially in winter. Two simple things are checking for vitamin D deficiency and lack of sunlight. Natural sunlight increases vitamin D which helps to absorb calcium for stronger bones and keeps serotonin levels from dropping.  Getting direct sunlight, using a sunlamp, and taking vitamin D supplements help overcome this deficiency.

Signs of Depression

Depression is not a natural state of the elderly. Fortunately, nearly all types of depression are treatable. When depression is caused by the season it usually ends with Spring arriving.  Feeling depressed regardless of season is more than sadness so, an appointment with your doctor is advisable. Symptoms include:


~physical aches

~loss of interest in hobbies and social situations

~lack of motivation

~sleep disturbances, loss of weight or appetite

~Feeling hopeless or helpless

~in severe cases, thoughts of death and suicide

~self-loathing, isolating

Causes of Depression

People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder will know when it arrives and take measures to lessen the effect of shorter and darker days. So it is an almost annual occurrence. The following causes may exacerbate “S.A.D.” and should be acknowledges and treatment sought.

~Loss of loved ones, including pets

~Fears and anxiety

~Alcohol and other drug use.

~Health issues or a difficult diagnosis – some of which depression is a symptom.

~Loneliness and turning away from others and enjoyable activities

~Reduced or loss of a sense of purpose or status.

~Medications can have a side effect of depression

Managing and Recovering Depression

Speaking with your doctor is the first step to overcome depression. It is hard to be motivated and take action because you are depressed. But, it is necessary and best to have someone help you to set up the appointment and go with you. Feeling better often means taking small steps and building on them. Getting outside for even a short walk can help lift your mood for a bit. Other tips:

~Try and get together with a friend. Digital is not a replacement for in-person contact but it helps. Today digital is more than voice so use Zoom or Facetime.

~Force yourself to make some appointments and get out , i.e. to barber or salon

~Find a volunteer opportunity. The act of giving builds connection and sense of purpose.

~Laugh – even when you have to fake it. Watch and read comedies. Laughing cause good chemical reactions in the brain.

~Join a group or club of interest or take a class. “Doing” does more than sitting alone.

~Consider individual or group counseling. Learn that you are not alone.

~Keep learning and get involved in something of interest and meaning to you.

~Discuss your diet and sleep patterns with your doctor.  — Eat more healthy!

Decreasing Loneliness and Depression

If you or a loved one is depressed, seek help as you it doesn’t have to be an ongoing condition.  Life happens and sometimes the response is a feeling of depression. You can help your elder friend, parent or other relative by checking on them and engaging with them. For seniors who are alone, especially during holiday seasons, like December a remedy can be to arrange for a companion. A home care aide can visit and go out with them. They may cook a meal together or help with shopping and getting to the Post Office. Family and friends may not be close by or have spare time from working.  During the pandemic, many family members cannot get together. Hiring an aide is an investment in your loved one’s well-being.  Because it can be short term, to get over the holiday period check with a trusted Home Care company what they can offer.  Talk to your loved one and share your concern and offer suggestions to help them through a rough time.