Help Seniors Avoid Winter Doldrums

Help Seniors Avoid Winter Doldrums

Posted on December 27, 2013 by ElderCare Resources Phoenix in Adult Day Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Community Resources, Education, Geriatric Care Management, Independent Living, Senior Center, Transportation, Volunteering

By:  Cheri Wayerski

Are you counting the days until spring?

The months between the arrival of old man winter and the arrival of the first spring lily can be long and difficult. Our days are shorter, the temperatures are low and our mood can be low as well. Don’t give into the winter doldrums like fatigue, weight gain and depressed moods. Use these tips to beat the winter blues.

• Keep the mind active

Although seniors may not be as physically active in the winter as during the rest of the year because of weather conditions, they can keep their minds active by participating in mental exercises.

Seniors or family members can purchase games such as crossword puzzles or sudoku. They can buy jigsaw puzzles or other hobby items to entertain and make them think or analyze.

Winter, or a decline in health, may keep them from being able to do some of the things they once enjoyed. Try to help them find substitutes for the things they can no longer do, so they can continue with their interests. Think of purchasing a magazine subscription that highlights a hobby or interest. If a senior is hearing or vision impaired, look to their local library for books on tape.

• Get regular exercise

Even if seniors cannot get outside, they can find ways to be active in their homes. They can use an exercise DVD or VHS tape or stream a video from the Internet. They can walk laps around their home. Many seniors may have a home exercise plan prescribed by a therapist. This exercise plan may include simple sit to stand and leg lift exercises. On days when it is warmer, they can go for a walk with a family member or caregiver.

• Eat healthy

Foods with too much sugar or caffeine can make seniors feel jittery or alter their moods. Many of these foods will provide a fast rush of energy and then a quick drop, leaving them feeling worse than before.

Foods such as pasta and other carbohydrates often leave a person feeling tired and sluggish, which adds to the winter blues. Take advantage of fresh fruits this time of the year, such as apples and oranges. Eat small, balanced meals regularly rather than skipping meals and eating larger meals later in the day.

Family can help by bringing in or sharing some dishes they have prepared. If the senior has difficulty cooking for themselves, they can look into purchasing Meals On Wheels for home-delivered meals.

• Be social

Even if the senior cannot get out of their house for days at a time, they still can interact with others. They can chat online; send messages on Facebook or Skype with long-distance family. Seniors who are less Internet savvy can call their family and friends on the phone. If the senior does not have unlimited long distance plan, family members can provide a long distance phone card so that they can afford to talk whenever they want.

Family and professional caregivers should be aware of any symptoms that indicate the senior is suffering from the winter blues. This includes fatigue, sadness, lack of interest and mood changes.

As always, a visit by yourself is always a mood lifter.

Cheri Wayerski is the facility registered nurse at Stoney River Assisted Living in Marshfield.

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