Depression is a condition that affects many people of all ages around the world. Over the years, I have experienced within our community just how difficult and debilitating it can be for some of our elderly in the winter months. Winter SADness…or Seasonal Affect Disorder is not just a bad or sad mood. It is a real health issue and as with any type of depression, it is important to be aware and seek medical intervention when necessary. The National Institute of Mental Health gives this explanation and as well as symptoms and treatments:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not considered as a separate disorder. It is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years. Seasonal depressions must be much more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.
Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:
- Having low energy
- Weight gain
- Craving for carbohydrates
- Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)
Treatments and Therapies:
There are four major types of treatment for SAD:
- Light therapy
- Vitamin D
These treatments may be used alone or in combination. Along with the difficulties that a chronic illness can bring, seniors are also likely to experiences losses in the social networks, which can contribute to the formation of clinical depression. Not everyone who experiences Seasonal Affect Disorder is clinically depressed, but SAD can increase the effects of those who do live with chronic depression. Families and caregivers should be on the lookout for indicators of SAD in their older loved ones during the winter months.
It is important to talk with your loved ones if you have concerns about their mental health and seek medical attention when necessary. Be supportive, be loving and help them remain calm as they cope.
Recently someone said to me that I seemed to always have it together. Me? Together? Now that is funny! Most days I feel like I am chasing my tail. Did they know my day that morning started with dry shampoo?? But isn’t that life? Most of us are convinced that everyone else always has it TOGETHER. We envision everyone with cleaner houses, perfectly cooked dinners and flawless families. In reality, we are all doing our best…to do our best. One thing that will de-rail our “best” in a hurry is stress. It is very common to hear from families of seniors dealing with “role reversal” that it is one of the most stressful tasks they have ever endured. It’s one thing to raise and help our children…but when it comes to helping our parents…this is no easy task. We don’t want to disrespect, but we also want to keep them safe. Here are some tips to help you be proactive and avoid making situations frustrating for both you and your loved ones.
Don’t forget your Vitamin ZZZZZ
It sounds simple, but get your sleep! According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health, and safety. The Foundation advises: “When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to “pay back” if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior.” Getting a good night sleep is important to your health and will help you be more effective in helping others and that includes your elderly parents.
Track Down a Paper Trail
According to AARP, an important part of getting things untangled for your elderly parents is organizing paperwork and documentation. “The first thing to do is ask your parents where they store important papers. It may be in a file cabinet at home, or in a safety deposit box or with an attorney. You can’t get organized if you can’t find anything, so come up with a checklist to write down where everything is. Documents that should be assembled and accounted for include”:
- birth certificate
- marriage certificate
- death certificate (for deceased spouse)
- divorce papers
- military records
- driver’s license/organ donor card
- passport/citizen papers
- living will
- durable power of attorney
- health care power of attorney
- letter of instruction — with funeral arrangements, important contact information such as insurance agent or broker.
- insurance policies (life, disability, long-term care)
- information about safety deposit boxes (e.g., location, number, key)
Remember to Enjoy Each Other
In this fast-paced world that we all get caught up in, it seems we can lose sight of the things that are important. Yes, making sure that everyone is safe and sound is huge! But Mom may also really enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with you. Dad may want to talk about the weather. Take time to enjoy the blessings each day. These small moments together will become larger than life soon enough. Make time to take time and as my Mom reminds me when I feel I’m at my wits end…just breathe.
If it is time to help Mom or Dad look at the option of Assisted Living please give us a call today. We would love to have you and your loved one come have lunch with us and see all that our communities have to offer.
Get more information at www.greatoaksmanagement.com
I think that the hardest part of being a caregiver is dealing with the guilt. There is never enough time in the day. You bought the wrong kind of soap, stamps or razors or whatever it is…you just can’t catch a break. I think that life in general can sometimes be structured to wear us down. We think we are so smart being so connected and so able to communicate and work and multi-task. Sometimes we just need to stop, push back and say…no. I am the world’s WORST at this. I don’t want to let anyone down. In my mind…my goal is to help everyone. But if I (or you) don’t take time to rest then how can we be good for anyone? So here are some tips to de-program and reduce caregiver stress.
- Ask for help. You know the help you have been providing. But write down what that help entails. No one person can do it alone. It may even be time to consider the move to an assisted living. Asking for help doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are not going to be part of the team. It just means you care enough to reach out.
- Realize your limitations. It’s impossible to be all things to all people. Sometimes our mindset that “only we can provide the help” is actually damaging for our loved ones. You may be thinking that you are helping someone by enabling them to stay alone…when in actuality they may do better in a community setting and your “help” may be depriving them of a better situation. Meanwhile it may also be running you ragged!
- Take time for you. If you think that only taking your loved ones to their doctor visits and cancelling your checkups is going to serve you well…think again. You need time to recharge your batteries and make sure that you are healthy both mentally and physically. Many caregivers suffer serious health issues while taking care of others. Be sure to take care of you!
- Talk it out. Phone a friend.. Have dinner with your spouse or seek the counsel of a peer going through the same situation. You can even find support groups for caregivers. Your stress is not in your head! Not to mention that it is not good to keep it all inside. Having a friendly chat can prove therapeutic and can also be a way to give and get advice for those sharing similar experiences.
So, what kind of person are you? Are you the Grinch at Christmas or are you more like Buddy the Elf? Hopefully you are somewhere in between. The holidays are not all lights, baking and singing Christmas carols for everyone. This especially holds true for some seniors. The songs that stir the hearts of many during the season can evoke feelings of sadness for others. But the best thing to do is not to allow the blues to get the best of you during the holidays or anytime for that matter. Here are some tips to help you or a loved one cope and avoid a “blue” Christmas.
- Stay Active! Exercise is not only good for the heart it is also excellent for the mind. By doing reasonable exercise based on your doctor’s recommendations and your ability, you can keep the blood pumping. It also improves our metabolic rate and increases the production of endorphins which are those natural mood lifters in the brain.
- Makeover your Mood! Studies show that the simple act of getting a haircut or even a hot shave makes you feel better! Don’t discount the benefits of a nice pedicure too. Feeling better about yourself will help make your spirits improve.
- Eat Better! Now while the holidays offer many opportunities for sweet treats that we may only have once a year, it’s best not to indulge. While these goodies typically show their havoc on waistlines, they have also been proven to derail our moods and cause depression as well. So, don’t wait until the New Year to practice better eating. Everything in moderation and stick to a well-balanced diet.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that “some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and may feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up.” So, this is not something to minimize. If you feel that your loved one may need more professional help. Don’t delay and don’t minimize the situation. Reach out and show love. If they are living alone, consider a move to assisted living or to a situation that will help stimulate them socially. Be sure to keep them engaged. Remember the way we feel mentally has a huge impact on our health physically.
For more information and a guide to overcoming holiday depression for the elderly check out the link below for article published by the American Medical Resource Institute. www.aclsonline.us/artcles/the-guide-to-overcoming-holiday-depression-for-the-elderly-and-their-caretakers/
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