We’re offering its advice to elderly people in Wales to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at this time of year (January, 2019).
Symptoms of SAD are more apparent and severe during the winter due to the dark evenings and cold weather.
The majority of our service users are elderly and at this time of year our carers are trained to keep a much closer eye on them for symptoms of SAD, which is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.
At this time of year it’s much easier to develop due to the colder weather and dark evenings and the fact that many people may have spent Christmas alone. Symptoms of SAD include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal, everyday activities, irritability, sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning and craving carbs and gaining weight.
According to the NHS, the exact cause of SAD isn’t understood, but it is often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn/winter. The lack of sunlight may stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus from working properly, which can affect the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you feel sleepy – the body may produce higher levels due to SAD), the production of serotonin (the hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep) and your body’s internal clock, as your body uses sunlight to time important functions, such as when you wake up.
“Our top tips for the elderly on preventing the symptoms of SAD:
- Get as much natural daylight as you possibly can, especially at midday and on brighter days. When you’re at home it’s also a good idea to sit near windows that let light in.
- If getting natural light is proving difficult, try light therapy by using a light box. They give out very bright light that is 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting, however, they can prove to be expensive, so you could try using a dawn simulator bedside light. These lights can be connected to an alarm clock and will get brighter gradually, mimicking a sunrise and waking you up naturally.
- Keeping the mind active is a good way to prevent symptoms of SAD creeping in. You could take up a new hobby, join a new group, do crafting, writing, photography or anything else that interests you and keeps your mind ticking over and concentrated on something else.
- Eating well can help boost your mood and give you more energy. Balance carbs such as potato and pasta with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Being cold can make you feel down, so make sure you stay warm with hot drinks and hot food, warm clothing, shoes, slippers, blankets and jumpers. Aim to keep your home heated between 18°C and 21°C.”