The winter season brings with it freezing temperatures, rain, and wind. Even though the span of winter isn’t that long, it is commonly associated with increased depression and gloom, a phenomenon that is commonly referred to as seasonal affective disorder.
Overcast weather is common in winter, and this induces a feeling of low spirits. This can manifest in the form of low energy, increased sleep and a reduced interest in activities. Let’s shed light on this in detail.
Symptoms of SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is associated with changes in weather, and symptoms start to appear around fall and last till winter. These symptoms then alleviate with the onset of spring, followed by summer. Here are some of the common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Low Energy
- Difficulty in concentration
- Chronic oversleeping
- Loss of interest in activities
- Changes in appetite
Risk Factors for Depression
While the gloom of winter affects everyone, dementia patients are at most risk. The overcast weather coupled with rain and wind can exacerbate symptoms of dementia, posing difficulty for dementia patients as well as their caregivers.
Depression is the most pronounced symptom of winter, which becomes even more acute in dementia patients. Even though the exact causes behind this are unknown, here are a few risk factors that trigger depression during winter.
Lack of Sunlight
The lack of light during the winter months can really impact your body and mind negatively. First of all, reduced exposure to sunlight can disturb your circadian rhythm, your biological clock. Due to this, your mind will not be able to differentiate between morning and night.
The body will end up producing too much melatonin, the sleep hormone, which makes you sleepier during winter. Lack of sunlight is also associated with decreased levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. This chemical imbalance might cause you to feel depressed and experience frequent mood swings.
Downpour is associated with cloudy weather, which can once again reduce serotonin levels in the body. You may start to feel low on energy, experience low self-esteem and even lose interest in things that you enjoyed doing previously.
What is worse is rain during the winter months with freezing temperatures. This may confine you indoors. You may feel suffocated and cooped up inside, which may increase feelings of depression that you were already experiencing due to the chemical imbalance from lack of sunlight.
Winter Depression and Dementia
While winter depression may affect anyone, you may notice it takes a toll on your loved ones with dementia. They may become more difficult to get through to, which might cause you to lose patience. However, this guide will talk about the association between winter depression and dementia, so you can understand what they are experiencing is not in their control as well as find out effective ways to make them feel better.
Here are some of the ways winter affects dementia patients:
1. Worsens Sundowning
Sundowning is characterized by increased agitation, aggression ad irritability. These symptoms heighten at the end of the day, when the sun is about to go down, hence the name. Sundowning occurs all around the year, but it becomes worse in winter when there is a lack of sunlight. Nights and darkness are longer during winter months, which makes these symptoms worse in dementia patients, who are already grappling with cognitive dysfunction and may start to exhibit odd behaviors due to this condition.
2. Causes Depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more pronounced in dementia patients, as they are already prone to depressive thoughts. When SAD is coupled with Sundowning, it makes dementia patients very restless and disturbed, and they might even start to disconnect and withdraw from their surroundings even more than usual.
3. Increases Sleep
Dementia patients frequently experience an increased need to fall asleep, disturbed by their memory loss. Since the lack of sunlight disturbs the body’s circadian rhythm, your body may start to overproduce melatonin, the sleep hormone. As a result, dementia patients may fall asleep sooner and longer than expected, decreasing their interest in activities that may be good for their mental health.
How to Alleviate Depression in Dementia Patients?
It is imperative to provide special care to dementia patients during what is a particularly difficult time for them. If you don’t know how to do that, here are some of the ways to help them cope better with winter depression.
1. Increase exposure to Light
Even though winters see meager sunlight, you should make the most of it. Take them out for a short walk during peak sunlight, which can alleviate signs of depression and stabilize mood swings. You should also increase the light in their room to help get rid of that gloomy, dark feeling that accompanies the winter season.
2. Consider Vitamin D Supplements
Lack of energy, mood swings, and depression are also linked to lack of Vitamin D, which is also associated with lack of sunlight. You should consult a doctor to start giving Vitamin D supplements to dementia patients who are dealing with heightened depression during winter.
3. Create a Calm Environment
Dementia patients might feel more disoriented and restless during winter as a result of depression. In such conditions, you should exercise patience with them instead of losing your cool. You should also consider professional help and care for them if you aren’t equipped to do that. Make small changes to create a relaxing environment for them. Put on soft music and spend time with them to remove feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Dementia and depression are often interlinked. This tends to become worse during dreary winter months where this is a lack of sunlight, increased rain, and wind. You should seriously consider a memory care facility that will be able to relay the best care to your loved ones with dementia so the winter does not take a serious toll on their mental health and condition.
We Are Here To Help
At Sycamore Creek Ranch Memory Care we are here to help. We want families to make the best decision for their situation
Furthermore, the staff at Sycamore Creek Ranch is proactive. That means we are not waiting for a problem to arise. Instead, we are actively engaged with each and every resident. And with only 16 residents we can do that!
If you are looking for Memory Care in The Woodlands or Memory Care in Spring, Texas come for a tour at Sycamore Creek Ranch! See how we can help.