Seasonal depression may be more prevalent among seniors. Also termed seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, it can result in fatigue and difficulties with concentration.
Among the less known medical risks for seniors are seasonally affective disorders, although it is a serious health hazard. Vitamin D deficiency may also lead to SAD which occurs when the body is unable to make enough of the vitamin. Therefore identifying either of these conditions is essential to good health.
Affective Disorder – What Is It?
Although most of us suffer from seasonal affective disorder during winter months, it can still happen any time of the year.
SAD is often triggered by the shorter days in the winter. People will also be more likely to stay indoors because of the colder temperatures. Some people will also gain weight. These conditions are linked to SAD.
Seniors are Often Affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder because
People who live farther away from the equator and females are affected most when it comes to seasonal affective disorder. Seniors may be more susceptible to SAD because they are less likely to be socially integrated. Additionally, aging causes the skin to have a more difficult time converting sunlight into vitamin D, increasing the risk of SAD.
Is it more common for seniors to be vitamin D deficient?
Vitamin D levels decrease as you get older. That’s due to the body utilizing sunlight for Vitamin D production. Once it has synthesized Vitamin D, the kidneys need to activate it, which decreases the body’s ability to do this.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: What Can Seniors Do?
The good news is that there are treatments available for both vitamin D deficiencies as well as SAD. Seniors can:
- Increase your intake of foods which naturally contain vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and cheese.
- The body restocks its vitamin D stores when it spends as little as a few minutes in the sun a day.
- Take vitamin D supplements. These can sometimes be purchased over the counter, but there are many kinds to choose from. Vitamin D2 and D3 are the most common type of supplements. Consult your doctor if you need further assistance.
- Several foods, like cereal, juice, and milk, are fortified with vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements may also be a possibility, if the senior’s diet does not contain enough vitamin D. An option that does not involve prescription medicine is the use of a light box that emits safe UV rays to help boost the body’s light metabolism into vitamin D.
It is important for people with SAD to be tested for vitamin D deficiency first. If they are incapable of getting enough vitamin D, then they need to address that deficiency.
Light therapy can be an effective treatment for some people during the initial phase, especially if medication does not work. If prescription antidepressants are not an effective treatment, doctors may prescribe medications that balance the brain’s neurochemicals.
Are depression treatments covered by Medicare?
A person’s preventative care is critical for preventing both traditional and seasonal depression. Through Medicare’s Part B, all preventative care, including an annual depression screen, is covered. Part B also covers some outpatient mental health treatments, such as:
- Therapy for families
- Group therapy
- Treatment individualized for each patient
- Diagnostic exams
- Psychiatric evaluation
Nevertheless, these services are subject to some eligibility requirements, so those who have questions may want to contact our experts.
Why Does SAD Occur?
Changes in the seasons cause a physiological condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Circadian rhythms undergo changes.
- Serotonin levels change
- Melatonin levels are changed
Several factors are associated with a higher risk of developing SAD, including:
- Women are at three times greater risk of experiencing SAD compared to men.
- Living far from the equator
- The SAD disease runs in the family
- Experiencing SAD in the past
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Bipolar disorder or history of major depression or other mental illnesses.
Serotonin and melatonin levels are linked and are affected by sunlight. This means shorter days with less sunlight lead to decreased serotonin, which in turn causes an increase in melatonin, which in turn results in SAD.
Seniors can cope with SAD, a condition caused by seasonality.
Good news is that senior citizens are less likely to suffer from SAD than younger people. Still, they are at risk, especially those who have experienced SAD in the past. Living alone and feeling isolated in the community also increases the likelihood of experiencing SAD in seniors. SAD is also treatable. There are several treatments available, and some patients may benefit more from a combination of treatment options.
These are some of the ways in which Seasonal Affective Disorder is treated:
- Light therapy
People with SAD symptoms can benefit from medicines previously prescribed for depression in seniors. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors can reduce SAD symptoms in many patients. If you want to try it, consult a doctor. Vitamin D supplements are another option. An in-home caregiver can help your loved one stay on top of their medication management so they know which medications to take, when and where. Research links Vitamin D deficiencies to an increased risk of SAD.
Winter holidays can be a difficult time for seniors when SAD is present. This is especially true for lonely seniors who are isolated from others. Shorter days coupled with loneliness can be a hard combination to deal with. Therapy can give seniors a place to talk about difficult emotions. They can also develop techniques to manage SAD symptoms with a skilled provider.
Seasonal changes are an inevitable part of life, but unmanaged seasonal affective disorder doesn’t have to be. There are treatment options available to those who are suffering from SAD. Hope you enjoy this article, moreover if you have any question feel free to contact us with our team. Thank you so much!