Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is often associated with fall and winter. It is considered a form of depression that impacts energy levels and mood. SAD affects 3% of the world population, with most cases occurring in countries with brutal winters and decreased natural light. Cities located on or near Lake Michigan, such as Chicago, Lake Forest, and Des Plaines, IL, are known for their harsh winters that can keep people indoors.
Because a decrease in sunlight can disrupt circadian rhythms, researchers attribute the seasonal affective disorder to hormonal changes that influence mood. However, social and environmental factors also contribute to the disorder's intensity. Cold temperatures and poor travel conditions can isolate people, keeping them away from family and friends.
Is Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD Age-Related?
Although SAD affects people of all ages, individuals over 65 have an increased likelihood of experiencing seasonal depression. Several factors contribute to the increase:
- Isolation. Seniors lacking mobility or experiencing health issues may have limited opportunities to socialize. The lack of human interaction can contribute to feelings of depression. Isolation is only exacerbated by winters that make travel difficult.
- Inclement Weather. Winters not only make travel difficult, but they can also make outdoor activities hazardous. Snow-packed sidewalks can be slippery. Icy steps are hard to navigate. As a result, many seniors spend more time indoors.
- Vitamin D Deficiency. Sunlight is our main source of Vitamin D. When the amount of daylight decreases, so does our Vitamin D source. Aging decreases our ability to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D. Since Vitamin D helps regulate energy levels and mood, a deficiency can lead to depression.
To minimize SAD's impact, people should consider possible lifestyle changes to reduce isolation and eliminate Vitamin D deficiency.
Does SAD Impact Alzheimer's?
Depression reduces cognitive ability in people of all ages. Significant research has shown the impact in younger adults, but only recently has the impact been measured in the senior population. Researchers found a significant association between seasonal depression and cognitive abilities. The study suggested therapies for cognition improvement be increased in late fall and into early spring when symptoms are more pronounced.
For those suffering from Alzheimer's, depression may complicate treatment because they share many of the same symptoms, such as:
- Crying easily
- Becoming restless or irritable
- Having difficulty focusing
- Slowing down
- Sleeping too much or not enough
To help minimize SAD's impact on those suffering from Alzheimer's, consider the following:
- Be positive. Always praise their efforts.
- Avoid overstimulation. Regulate activities to minimize loud noises or disruptive behaviors.
- Let them help. Provide tasks that they can complete successfully.
- Create a comfortable environment. Ensure their surroundings are welcoming.
Senior Helpers of Des Plaines provides senior in-home care. Whether you or your loved one lives in Lake Forest or Des Plaines, we can help create a positive environment to minimize the impact of seasonal affective disorder. With shortening days, seniors may benefit from home care that can brighten their surroundings, help with mobility, and create a positive environment for weathering the harsh Chicago winters. Contact us today.