Seniors are in a population of people who may be more likely to develop seasonal depression, also known as a seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
Seasonal affective disorders are among the less famous health hazards for seniors. However, it’s one that seniors should take seriously. SAD is often due to vitamin D deficiency, which happens when the body cannot create enough vitamin D on its own. Therefore, identifying either or both conditions is vital to good health.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that cycles along with the seasons. Although it mostly occurs during the winter months, it can happen at any time of the year.
The shorter days in the winter often trigger winter-induced SAD. Colder temperatures also mean that people are less likely to go outside, and some may even have more aches and pains. In combination, the changes in temperature and sunlight can bring on the symptoms of SAD.
Why Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Impact Seniors?
Seasonal affective disorder impacts females and those who live further away from the equator most because the sun isn’t out as much in those regions.
SAD may heavily impact seniors because they are more likely to be isolated from those around them. Additionally, the human body may find it more challenging to convert sunlight into vitamin D when it ages, increasing the risk of SAD.
Are Seniors at a Greater Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Yes, they are. Those who are older are more likely to develop vitamin D deficiency, and that risk increases as they age. The body synthesizes Vitamin D from sunlight. Once the body has synthesized this nutrient, the kidneys must activate it, but the body’s ability to do this declines as people get older.
How Should Seniors Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Fortunately, there is treatment available for both vitamin D deficiencies and SAD. To address vitamin D deficiency, seniors can:
- Eat more foods that naturally contain vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and cheese.
- Get more sunlight. Getting just a few minutes of sun a day can help the body restock its vitamin D stores.
- Take a vitamin D supplement. These are sometimes available over the counter, but there are different types to try. Vitamin D 2 and 3 are most common. A medical provider can test the patient’s blood to see if a deficiency is present and prescribe a high dose, too.
- Eat vitamin D fortified foods, such as cereal, juices, and milk.
Changing the senior’s diet to include more vitamin D is one possible solution. If that doesn’t work, then taking supplements may be the next step.
In fact, one non-pharmaceutical option is the use of a lightbox that emits safe UV rays to help improve the body’s conversion of light into vitamin D.
Like other forms of depression, treatment is also available for SAD. People who have developed SAD should be tested for a vitamin D deficiency first. If they are deficient, then they should address that deficiency.
Other treatments that may work could include taking prescription antidepressants, which help balance the brain’s neurochemicals. Those may take a few weeks to kick in, so light therapy is usually the first treatment doctors prescribe. If that doesn’t work, they may prescribe medications.
Does Medicare Pay for Depression Treatment?
Preventative care is essential for preventing both traditional and seasonal depression. It ensures that each person gets the treatment they need sooner, rather than later. Fortunately, Medicare Part B covers most preventative services, including an annual depression screening. It also covers some outpatient mental health services, including:
- Family counseling
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy
- Diagnostic tests
- Psychiatric evaluation
However, some eligibility requirements apply to these services. For those who have questions, it may be time to reach out to our experts.
Contact SeniorSmart to Learn More Today
Understanding seasonal affective order is the first step toward identifying it and helping those who may develop it. At SeniorSmart, we want to continue assisting seniors to get the help and support they need, so we encourage Alabama seniors to enroll in our concierge membership program. This service provides information on a number of topics, including:
- Medicare benefits
- Social security benefits
- Elder law
- Senior living options
- Senior health and wellness
Contact us today at 205.460.1124 to learn more about how our concierge membership program can help those 65 and older to thrive.