Best of the Seasons! We are coming off of the 'holiday high', and are about to move into the cold winter months of January and February. These can be difficult months for many of us.  As caregivers, we need to be watchful over both ourselves and our loved one so as not to get caught up in the winter doldrums.

Research also shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).

Many of us experience varying degrees of depression during the winter months due to the lack of sunshine, limited activity and a decrease in social connections. Social isolation is a serious problem with physical, mental and emotional consequences. Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline and lead to depression and deterioration of overall health and well-being.  Studies of elderly people and social isolation concluded that those without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely. Research also shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).

Loneliness in our older adults comes on for a variety of reasons including family moving away, spouses and friends passing away, and a general inability to do what they used to do. We underestimate the power of human connection.

Even if we cannot change the weather or the season, there are a few things we can do to help ourselves and our older loved ones get by 'til spring arrives.

  1. Set up a rotating once-a-week "Phone Tree" so that every week your loved one gets a call from someone they want to hear from.

  2. Set up a "Visiting Tree" with friends, family, and church members.Companions can be hired thru one of the many private-pay, home-care agencies.If finances are a concern, there are programs available through the Bluegrass Area Agency on Aging. You can contact them at (859) 269-8021 to discuss program eligibility.

  3. Spend time every week with your older loved one doing something they enjoy. Share a meal, watch a favorite TV show, listen to music, play cards or look through the family album and reminisce.

  4. Diet can play an important part in how we feel - physically and emotionally. Research has shown that foods containing omega-3 fatty acids (such as walnuts, sardines, salmon and leafy green vegetables) and those with Vitamin D (fish, egg, and foods fortified with D such as milk, cereals, and grains) combined with exposure to sunlight can play an important role in reducing depression. Make sure you and your loved one are getting the daily requirements. For more information, check out the article,Nutritional Psychiatry: Your brain on food.

  5. If the weather is cooperating, suggest your loved one get out of the house for a little bit. A change of scenery and environment can do a world of good and fend off the feelings of being cooped up.

As caregivers, we get social interaction thru our work and outside activities. An elderly person dependent on a caregiver is not so fortunate. We need to help ourselves and our older loved ones thru these winter months. Spring is on the way!