Can Seasonal Depression Worsen or Complicate Alzheimer's
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Can Seasonal Depression Worsen or Complicate Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease takes a significant toll on both family caregivers and those living with this illness. Fortunately, there's a vast range of support services for families within the greater Cook County, Illinois area who are struggling with Alzheimer's care. Using Alzheimer's/Dementia Care services from Senior Helps is a great way to bolster and enhance the life quality of your aging loved one. It will also alleviate much of the pressure that you feel. However, it's additionally important to know what challenges to expect throughout the year. One factor that can have a significant impact on people with Alzheimer's is seasonal depression.

What Is Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is one of several clinically recognized depression types. It's estimated that nearly 40 percent of people living with Alzheimer's disease and nearly 20 percent of the family caregivers who support these individuals experience depression. SAD is distinguished from other forms of depression by its:

  • Symptoms
  • Underlying causes
  • Seasonal nature

Often referred to as the "winter blues," seasonal depression typically occurs as the days shorten during late fall and winter and when access to sunlight is limited. Warm, sunny days and adequate sun exposure are believed to increase the levels of a naturally occurring antidepressant known as serotonin. Other research additionally attributes SAD to low levels of vitamin D. Although eating foods that are rich in this important, mood-boosting nutrient is important, regular sun exposure is equally vital for helping the body to absorb and synthesize it.

So How Does Seasonal Depression Affect Alzheimer's Disease?

While it's important to be on the lookout for signs of depression year-round, you should be especially vigilant during the cold weather season. Here are the common symptoms of SAD among those with Alzheimer's from Senior Helpers Chicago/Evanston:

  • Decreased motivation
  • Decreased interest in normal activities
  • Decreased interest in socialization
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Sleep troubles
  • Increased irritability

Seniors with SAD may also complain of a heavy feeling in their arms and legs. This sensation can make it difficult for them to assist with dressing, toileting, and other basic self-care activities. Depression of all types can also have a profound impact on memory.

How Can Family Caregivers Help?

If your loved one exhibits one or more symptoms of SAD, it's important to contact their doctor. Supplementation with vitamin D increases outside time, and other interventions may make it easier to weather the challenges of seasonal depression.

Remembering to Take Care of Yourself

Even as you're working with your loved one's physician to determine whether supplementation or other mitigation strategies are right for treating their SAD, it's important to remember that family caregivers experience depression too. Winter and late autumn are important times to take care of your own mental and emotional health. This can include making sure that you're getting enough outside time, enough vitamin D, and enough rest. Diligent self-care and proactive depression prevention are all keys to avoiding caregiver burnout.

Senior Helpers of Chicago/Evanston Has Got You Covered

Senior Helpers of Cook County, Illinois, offers year-round Alzheimer's/Dementia care. We're always available to ensure that you never get overwhelmed. We also offer personal care, respite care, and more in Chicago/Evanston. When you know that you need a helping hand, contact us.