October 16, 2019
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the Winter Blues, affects millions of people every year. A form of depression that occurs at the same time every year, with symptoms diminishing when Spring weather arrives, the likelihood of a SAD diagnosis increases as we age — and seniors who are housebound are especially at risk.
One of the most frustrating aspects of SAD is that it often mimics the symptoms of other illnesses. Seniors exhibiting symptoms of the Winter Blues have been diagnosed with everything from thyroid problems to mononucleosis, often because they don’t make the connection between their symptoms appearing every year and improving with the weather, and because the disruption to their sleep cycles, mood, and behavior is so extreme. For that reason, it’s important for seniors and their caregivers to understand the symptoms of SAD, so they can help ensure a correct diagnosis and the right treatment.
Understanding The Winter Blues
For many people, just the thought of Winter is enough to bring them down. The idea of being stuck inside, with short days, freezing temperatures, and mountains of snow and ice outside, isn’t always appealing. Winter weather can disrupt your usual routine, preventing you from visiting with friends or taking your daily stroll, which can lead to sadness.
It’s not just the disappointment and boredom that can come with Winter weather that causes, SAD, though. Although researchers aren’t certain of the exact cause, it’s believed that the disorder is due to changes in the amount of natural light exposure during the Winter season. The shorter days and longer nights, and in northern climates, the changes in the angle of sunlight, are disruptive to natural circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle. This disruption disrupts the body’s production of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood. Without enough natural sunlight each day, serotonin levels fall, causing symptoms of depression — and significant changes to the sleep cycle.
SAD and Sleep
Although SAD causes many of the classic symptoms of depression — withdrawal, changes in appetite, changes in mood, loss of interest in activities — but changes to sleep patterns are some of the most common. The Winter Blues can cause increases in sleep for seniors, especially during the day, but it can also contribute to insomnia.
Many of these sleep changes are attributable to the changes in ambient light during the day. The human body is naturally attuned to the cycle of day and night. When that cycle changes, and there is more darkness than light or vice versa, the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted. This is only exacerbated by the natural tendency for circadian rhythms to chance as we get older. In general, as we age, we become sleepier earlier in the day, and wake up earlier in the day. But when the sun starts going down at 3 p.m., as it does in some northern climates, that could mean a very early bedtime for some people.
One of the most interesting aspects of the effect of SAD and sleep is the fact that many people report symptoms of insomnia during the Winter, when in fact, they don’t have insomnia at all. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that people with SAD often report that they have insomnia, when they are in fact getting just as much sleep as usual. The difference? They typically spend more time in bed, because the seasonal changes cause them to spend up to four hours a day more resting than usual. The perception is that this extra time resting is insomnia — or sleeping to excess — when in fact they’re getting the same amount of actual sleep as usual.
Still, the fact that the Winter Blues can have such an effect on sleep patterns is cause for concern. There are things you can do, though, to support better sleep during the Winter, and reduce the effect of SAD.
Supporting Healthy Sleep
Encouraging healthy sleep for any age during the Winter months is important for maintaining overall well-being, but it’s especially important for older adults. It’s possible to reduce the symptoms of SAD and improve sleep with a few changes to the daily routine.
- Consider investing in a “happy light.” Using a special, full-spectrum lamp for a short time every day can help regulate the circadian rhythms and improve mood.
- Start the day with some exercise. Exercising each day is a key part of healthy sleep. Take a short walk outdoors in the morning if possible, or do a simple indoor workout during bad weather.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Create a sleeping area that’s conducive to sleep: Dark, cool, and comfortable. Establish a bedtime routine to encourage sleep; for instance, go to bed at the same time every night, take a warm bath, read, or use specific lotions to indicate it’s time for bed.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Avoid long afternoon naps. If you need to rest, only sleep for 20-30 minutes.
- Talk with your doctor. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or trouble sleeping, your doctor can help by recommending lifestyle changes, further testing to rule out other issues, or prescribing medication.
The good news about the Winter Blues is that they are temporary, and when Spring comes, the symptoms will disappear. There’s no need to suffer in the meantime though. Understanding what’s happening and taking steps to get plenty of sleep can help alleviate the effects and keep you healthy all season long.
October 12, 2019
By Anica Oaks
Arthritis is a name given to a large group of degenerative and painful conditions. They’re all similar in the fact that they are marked by inflammation in the joints of the body. This condition results in pain and stiffness for seniors. Here are four solutions that can help to soothe away your arthritic pain at home.
Hot and Cold Therapy
While this may not seem like a big treatment, it’s very effective for arthritic-related pain. Opt for a long, warm bath or shower in the morning. This will reduce stiffness in the joints. Even a heated blanket or heating pad utilized at night can allow your joints to stay loose the next morning. Reserve cold treatments for relieving the joint swelling and inflammation when it gets to its worst.
You can typically find compression sleeves at your local pharmacy. They will likely have all sorts of sleeves including ones for ankle compression, elbow compression, knee compression, and so forth. The concept behind this type of treatment is that it applies a mild compression to the area that regularly receives inflammation. The compression helps to reduce the amount of inflammation that occurs, which translates to less arthritic pain for you.
While your first instinct may be not to move the painful joints, you must reconsider. Low-impact movement can help to loosen up the muscles around the joints. This provides less possibility of inflammation around the joints. You’ll notice that the irritated joints will be more flexible and have less pain when you move them. If you have access to a pool, then doing any sort of exercise in the water is considered low-impact for your joints.
Regular massaging of the joints that get inflamed can help to reduce the amount of inflammation in the future. This results in less pain and stiffness for you. With regular massage, you’ll get an improved range of motion that can allow you to be more mobile throughout your everyday life. Talk with a physical therapist about self-massage techniques that you can use for your specific arthritic-related pain.
Relieving arthritic pain doesn’t always have to be done with medication. Rather, the above are some very effective treatment solutions that you can utilize at home to alleviate your pain. Be sure to try various treatment solutions to see which ones your body best responds to and stick with those in the future to help manage your arthritic pain.
October 9, 2019
By Lizzie Weakley
As a loved one age, they may find it difficult to care for themselves or maintain their independence without assistance and monitoring. If you or your loved one has made the decision to move to an assisted living home, there are a few ways to maximize comfort throughout the transition and adjustment periods.
Find a Suitable Assisted Living Program
One of the most important steps to take with a loved one who is in need of assistance and care is to take the time to find an assisted living program that is right for your loved one. Take the time to research each individual assisted living program or home you are interested in for your loved one. Read reviews and client testimonials to learn more about individual assisted living homes in your area and to determine which facility is optimal for your loved one’s lifestyle, health conditions, and daily needs.
Help Your Loved One Get Comfortable in Their New Space
Once you have transferred your loved one into an assisted living home, it is important to help make their new space as comfortable and as welcoming as possible. Spend time decorating and adding personal belongings, decor, and various items for your loved one into their bedroom or living space. The more comfortable your loved one feels at their assisted living home, the less likely they are to withdraw socially or become depressed as a result of loneliness.
Commit to visiting your loved one regularly once they are living full-time in an assisted living home. Visiting loved ones regularly can help minimize stress and depression in the elderly. Loneliness is serious and can ultimately lead to serious and life-threatening depression and anxiety.
Ensure Your Loved One Remains Active and Social
Always ensure your loved one remains active and social while staying in an assisted living facility. Check-in on your loved one daily to make sure that they are happy and being taken care of by staff. Encourage your loved one to join social gatherings and to partake in hobbies and activities that are hosted by the assisted living facility.
With the right assisted living home, help your loved one to readjust to their new way of living without stripping them of their independence and what it means to care for themselves. By taking the time to help your loved one adjust to their new assisted living home, gain peace of mind knowing that they are in the right place.
Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and walks in the park with her three-year-old husky, Snowball.
October 7, 2019
By Meghan Belnap
As we age, it becomes harder to be comfortable. Getting a good night’s rest seems impossible. Seniors can be extremely sensitive to things like temperature and light changes. The National Institute of Health says older people get less sleep and the quality of the rest is not as good as for younger individuals. After age 60, nearly half of seniors experience difficulty sleeping. We talk about four ways the elderly can get the most out of a nap or a night’s rest below.
Warm up the feet to stay cozy
Surprisingly, many people find cold extremities keep them awake. If you always have cold feet, then maybe a thick pair of socks, compression hose, or heated stockings can make a difference. Most heat loss comes out of the top of the head, so wearing a cap to sleep may help some people who can tolerate the feeling while slumbering.
Add thermal room darkening curtains to the bedroom
Nothing disrupts a good nap or a night’s sleep than a bright light. When your sleep rhythm is off, it may be necessary to nap during the day. To get the best rest while the sun is up, a set of light-reducing drapes can make a huge difference. Using a brand with thermal linings can reduce any drafts from windows keeping the bedroom temperature more even. Plus, the curtains can help save energy costs by reducing heat transfer.
Splurge for an adjustable mattress
Mattress sales offer the biggest discounts around the holidays and at the end of winter. Early spring works when you need to find a deal on replacing your bed. If your mattress is over eight years old, then it is a good idea to upgrade your bed. Selecting a model with cooling technologies or functions like raising and lowering the head and legs can make getting to sleep easier. Some people say they get a better nights sleep because they can stay asleep longer without achy legs or stiffness in the back and hips.
Use ambient sound makers
Do you have a favorite nighttime noise like crickets or frogs? Maybe the sound of rain on a tin roof or a river babbling over pebbles is soothing. Ambient sound machines are helpful for some seniors who need white noise to drift off to sleep. Sleep apps and playlists on Internet music sites can also help a person drown out the ringing in the ears to get more sleep.
While we lose the refreshing feeling of sleep as we age, there are things we can do to get a better night’s sleep. Making the room and the bed comfortable is an excellent start. Choosing a quiet place and introducing welcome sounds is another way to fall asleep faster. Individuals with dementia and other health issues may not sleep well at night. Creating a comfortable space for napping at any hour may help older individuals get a better quality of rest.
Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure.
October 2, 2019
By Brooke Chaplan
For seniors, maintaining a level of independence can sometimes mean that changes need to be made in their home. The good thing is that there are lots of ways that you can go about taking care of yourself or a family member who is aging. Here are just a few of the things that can be done around your home so that seniors don’t have to sacrifice their independent lifestyle.
Consider Clothing Selection
What clothes are available affects independence and a feeling of self-identity. For example, a button-down shirt can be easier to manage than something that has to be put on over one’s head. Selecting clothing that’s easy to put on and remove means that seniors can maintain their independence for a longer period of time. Slip-on shoes are another good option so that people don’t have to bend down to tie the laces.
Install Safety Features
Taking precautions around the house will make it easier for seniors to stay in their own home. For example, installing grab bars in the bathroom will allow the elderly to get ready for the day without assistance. They can also prevent seniors from experiencing a fall and not being able to get back up. Improving the quality of lighting around the house can also work to prevent an accident from occurring. Remove rugs or tape them to the floor to eliminate the chances of slipping.
Use Technology Wisely
There are lots of options when it comes to technology that can help seniors around the house. For example, voice activated assistants can be programed to turn on and off electronic devices or the lights around the house as well as control the locks on your doors. Another good feature to have is an emergency call button. This could be something that your loved one wears or even a motion sensor that you have installed. It could call for help if it didn’t detect movement after a certain period of time, which could be a life-saving tool if someone falls or has a stroke.
Employ Assistance Options
In-home assistance can be a lifesaver when you’re struggling with the day-to-day tasks. For example, housekeeping, lawn maintenance, or grocery shopping services can be utilized so that you have one less thing to worry over. There are also other types of services in which an aide can come to your home and help you with personal hygiene or meal preparation. All of these services are designed to help the elderly stay in their homes for as long as possible.
People don’t have to lose their independence when they become older. Use these ideas to help you think of how you can help an elderly friend or loved one maintain their independence, which will improve their mental health and stability.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan
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