senior winter depression

Helping Seniors Deal with Winter's Seasonal Depression

Seniors may find themselves noticing they can't seem to get into the holiday spirit. This may be a good time to adjust expectations and allow negative feelings to exist.

Older adults may not feel so excited about winter holidays as they used to. It can be caused by a number of things but can be dealt with as part of the range of normal feelings.

Progress can come from accepting the negative feelings as well as taking proactive steps to get through the season.

Possible Causes of Holiday Blues Among Older Adults

It can be as simple as financial and social pressures or as complex as a lingering loneliness or grief, which is intensified by all the talk about family closeness and love.

When individuals have lost family members or friends the sadness is often intensified during this time of year.

There is also reason to believe the decreased exposure to light adds to the mix due to shorter days and the tendency to stay inside during the winter.

At times it is a combination of Christmas holiday stress and seasonal affective disorder commonly referred to as SAD, where less light and winter blues can coincide with the holiday season.

In addition, many seniors' diet often contains excessive sugar and carbs, thus contributing to holiday weight gain as well as holiday blues.

Although older women are more at risk, anyone can experience a light case of holiday blues or even full-blown depression.

Increased and unrealistic expectations, whether they are self-imposed or absorbed from the constant pressure from the media barrage, only add to the madness.

Strategies to Help Seniors Get Through the Season

We each have our own culture and religious traditions, but no matter what you celebrate, there will be more social events than usual.

Fortunately, there are practical methods to help older people face each day more positively during the holiday seasons.

One way to rewire a person's thinking is to remind herself that "It isn't about me." Look at each holiday stress and ask what it is about. Often this cognitive path helps a senior discover what is really important – whether it be a holiday gathering or a challenging day.

In addition, seniors can stop to remember that Christmas doesn't have to be about commercialism.

  • Keep a schedule. Write a routine down. Since there's so much emotion in the air, choose not to act on winter depression only, but rather go by a schedule. Make it loose enough for extra activities, yet structured enough to give the day some shape. For example, set a time for meals.
  • Do some physical activity in the morning. Read or watch a movie after lunch.
  • Email or call at least one person, or socialize on Facebook or similar social networking media. Sometimes just a short chat can provide holiday relief.
  • Consider walking outside, at a local mall, or another place with sights to see; enjoy nature or just go people watching.
  • Have a cup of tea or coffee at a certain time each day.
  • Take a shower and dress warmly.
  • Open the shades, blinds or curtains. Sunlight has often been shown to be helpful in relieving seasonal affective depression. Some people even use seasonal affective disorder light therapy.

Tips for Seniors Surviving Seasonal Depression

Try using some of the following tips to beat the blues:

  • Take a daily walk. This gives something to do that will get an older person up and going, and it's good for the body as well as for reducing seasonal depression.
  • Find TV programs or music to enjoy.
  • Tend a garden or even a plant.
  • Sit on the porch or in the yard, soaking up the daylight and fresh air.
  • Get to know neighbors. Talk briefly with them, but don't be offended when they have their own things to do. Short visits do both the senior and the neighbor good.
  • Go to a park and feed the duck or just enjoy nature there.
  • Smile even if no one is looking. In fact, force a smile upon awakening. It can become a habit.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a doctor or counselor.

Older Adults Can Have a Stress-Free Holiday

There are self-care methods for seniors to help themselves survive the depression and holiday stress. If a senior or boomer has no place to go, attend a church or community holiday meal.

Look in the paper for activities in the community. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. Go buy just part of the week's food to be sure and have additional personal interaction.

It is OK to get away from the frenzy of activity. Sometimes older adults have simply had enough of the holiday madness.

For whatever reason, be it finances, family or other stresses, it can be helpful to live like it's not holiday season for a day or so. Read a book. Listen to favorite non-holiday music. Watch a movie or two.

After a day or so of respite, there may be enjoyment, or at least more comfortable tolerance of much of the holiday's hustle and bustle.

A rest away from it can help seniors be empowered to design the holiday they desire.

And when you are ready, Papa can pitch in and help with errands, transportation, or companionship, which can mean so much this time of year.

alzheimer ribbon

Be Proactive for Awareness of Alzheimer’s

Due to the amazing growth of Boomers and number of patients with Alzheimer’s (AD), it has become even more important for both the medical professionals and families to be aware of the need for screening for this debilitating disease.

Some barriers, which may cause a delay in addressing symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, include fear of getting involved, denial and avoidance of an unknown diagnosis, and simple lack of public awareness.

Doing the Numbers on Alzheimer’s

Over ninety percent of identified Alzheimer’s Disease patients are age 65 and older with late-onset AD. From that age, the risk doubles every five years.

One in eight are diagnosed at age 65 and it progresses to 1 in 2 at age 85!

In addition, the 85+ age group is the fastest growing – making the need to be proactive quite evident.

The others are early-onset patients, often genetic (meaning that 50% of their offspring will get it).

Symptoms surfaced any time from the 40s to the 60s, although it was present before it was medically recognized.

Reasons Seniors See a Doctor for Screening or Diagnosis

  • To receive proper treatment and medications
  • Safety (medicines, driving, and diet) issues
  • Family member observing something different
  • Patient repeating the same story over and over
  • Less often, one spouse brings the other in (but often the spouse gets used to changes little by little, thus not realizing how much memory issues have worsened)
  • Sometimes patient comes on his or her own self-awareness of cognitive changes
  • In response to a crisis

Yearly screening from age 65 on can be helpful in detecting changes in functioning.

Sometimes a patient is asked to remember three words, draw a clock, etc. in screening.

Seeing a medical professional can get a patient on the way to defining and addressing the problems along with researching the reasons via a proper diagnosis.

Medical professionals can address concerns of safety, finances, therapy, treatment, medications, and caregivers.

Why Older Adults with Alzheimer’s May Need Treatment

As mentioned above, the main reason is safety, of themselves and others in society (accidentally starting fires, driving hazards, etc.)

Everyday life activities involving cooking, use of tools, problems with finances, getting lost are issues, which need attention.

Even delusions and hallucinations may occur later. Treatment offers an opportunity to save thousands by delaying nursing home placement.

Early diagnosis allows for more effective treatment in order to slow the progression, stay connected to the family longer, improve or stabilize behavior which is the main reason for referral to nursing homes, and give more relief to symptoms.

Such early diagnosis and treatment also provide time to plan for the future. The sooner problems are addressed, the better off the patient and the family will be.

Differences Between Alzheimer’s and Normal Aging

Normal seniors may have memory issues. For AD patients, their issues involve problem-solving, executive functioning, judgment, and words that just don’t come.

For normal older adults, a word may not come at first, but then it appears “from the tip of the tongue” whereas Alzheimer’s patients never find the proper word, especially names.

Another litmus test is that normal people may have a memory problem (due to normal aging, chemo, stroke, etc.), which stays static or shows some improvement, whereas Alzheimer’s patients become progressively worse.

Need for Research in Field of Memory and Alzheimer’s

There is a vital need for further research, both for treatment options and prevention.

As the at-risk population will rise sharply in the next few years, some are opting to participate in clinical research studies.

To do so, they must have a caregiver and informed permission from both patient and caregiver. Such research may be crucial to the increasing numbers of older adults.

Today is a good day to consider the Biblical wisdom to “Honor your mother and father” by acting on your own doubts and/or concerns out of your love for them.

Instead of a parent, it may be a spouse, friend, or neighbor who needs your input to help them seek regular screening or medical help for memory and other related issues.

Since we often spend time with family members more on the holidays, that’s a fine time to observe whether more attention may be needed.

During the testing phase and after, go to Papa and discover how much help a spare college student can be for companionship, errands, or tasks around the house.

It’s never too late to be proactive about cognitive loss such as Alzheimer’s.

The Papa Team Walking to fight Alzheimer's Disease

Father and daughter

Safety for Frail Seniors Who Come to Your Home

When inviting an elderly or frail senior to your home, it would be worth taking some precautions to ensure they can enjoy the occasion to the fullest without mishaps or fear of safety issues.

Planning to Have Frail Senior Guests in Your Home

When you are hosting events at home, plan for any frail guests. There is a need to consider handicapping conditions and other issues that could cause safety risks.

When a senior is worried about safety and is uncomfortable, it is difficult to have a good time.

By looking at the guest list, it can be determined which older adults may be at risk. This could include balance, the risk of tripping or falling, difficulty standing, and challenges with stairs or step-downs.

Remove throw rugs and work to make walking spaces free of electric cords and other clutter or any short standing objects that could present a fall risk to seniors with a reduced visual field or issues with balance.

It may help to move any statues or other standing items back to allow for more walk-through space.

Do a safety walk-through of the spaces your guests will occupy to be sure their wheelchair, walker, and/or cane friendly. Imagine yourself with a mobility issue coming to the place for the first time.

Take a look at decorative items, inspecting them for danger. Art, which protrudes from the walls, can be a challenge, especially in a dark hallway to the restroom.

Making Your House Safe for Guests at Risk for Tripping

Mark a spot in the driveway for this senior. Keep the parking area free of clutter, which could trip a walker who is unsteady. Move yard waste, which can precipitate a fall.

Be sure there is adequate lighting, both outside the house and inside including hall areas.

Night lights may help in this regard. Use a flashlight to personally escort this guest to and from the house to assure safe access.

Sidewalks need to be maintained in order to be visually available to the guest. If possible, avoid the stairs, but if they are part of your plan, keep them uncluttered and lit.

If your house has any steps either on the porch or by the entry inside, pay close attention to being nearby and giving verbal warnings as the frail guest navigates them.

The same applies to a sunken living room, as this can be a minefield to a person with a limited vision or balance issues.

Due to both allergies and risk of falling, dogs and cats need to be kept in another area as this person may have trouble when a pet runs in or out of their intended path.

Although these transitions may seem easy to you, they can be both frightening and hazardous for certain people.

Providing for the Comfort of Elderly Visitors While They Are in Your Home

Be sure the doorbell is in working order and respond to it promptly. Don’t rely on yelling; “Come on in” as people with reduced hearing may not hear that.

Also, make the doorbell accessible with adequate lighting and not blocking it with plants or objects of art, which can make it hard to reach.

If possible, install a higher toilet seat and/or grab bars to make the bathroom accessible. Thes

e raised toilet seats are affordable and can be found in the local hardware store.

Also, keep some type of light on in the bathroom. A lamp or bold night-light may help here.

In the sitting area, provide some chairs that are not too low to get out of easily and be sure that they have arms to make getting up easier.

If the guests are going to watch a DVD offer English subtitles. Those with a slight hearing loss may be grateful. Also, visual learners benefit from and appreciate the extra visual input.


When serving a meal, use a table of standard height with suitable chairs. Many modern tables are bar height with chairs o high that feet can’t touch the floor, and there may be no arms to hold onto while steadying oneself.

In making the menu, provide at least one alternative to spicy food as some older adults have tender digestive systems.

One option is to provide the spicy portion of the meal as a separate and well-marked dip or sauce to add as desired.

It is better to provide extra safety measures than not enough and regret it after an unfortunate incident.

Also, the comfort of seniors in your home can be vital to having a good time. Often they will not tell you they are miserable, but you may not have another opportunity to entertain them if they are uncomfortable.

Since there are so many holiday events, winter is a crucial time to deliver safety along with the punch and cookies!

Grandmother and Granddaughter

Seniors Can Enjoy Thanksgiving

Finding Thankfulness Amid Challenges of Senior Living

Yup, even November can be a challenge for a senior’s body and soul.  So many things happened this year:

  • Friends and/or loved ones have died.
  • Others are experiencing illnesses.
  • Caregiving threatens to drain that last bit of energy.
  • Family members are so busy with their lives they may not notice.
  • Worries about health, finances, or family are affecting sleep quality.

So how in the heck can we be grateful? Maybe it’s time to get back to simple things.  One common denominator we can all appreciate is life —even in all its struggles and blessings.

Spending time remembering good things from your life and people who were there may help. You may want to look through old pictures and relive those times which made you smile.

Caregivers Face Special Hurdles in Giving Thanks

Sometimes I’ve had to sit down for this one. Even though my caregiving duties have continued to grow, I have somehow found there are always reasons to be thankful:

  • for help gained from medical professionals
  • for friends and family who show caring
  • for fine memories of the 33 years my hubby and I have together
  • for resources and services I’ve been lucky enough to tap for assistance
  • for my health—though compromised — I’ve held up pretty well.
  • for each new morning since my late sister once reminded me that “the sun does come up”
  • for moments when I can breathe, think, and even do nothing, and for my growing ability to keep finding those opportunities.
  • for music, nature, and simple things which add a bit of sparkle to my life.
  • AND of course, dark chocolate!

Ways to Simplify Your Thanksgiving Celebration

If you cooked a feast for others for years like I did, maybe it’s time to go a little easier on yourself:

  • Eat out — Many places do a superb job of serving a great feast.
  • Order a pre-cooked meal with your favorite choices. It can be delivered or you can pick it up Thanksgiving morning. Go online and be surprised at all the wonderful ideas! Or Google home-delivered Thanksgiving meals. Catering can give you the gift of more time together with those you love.
  • Help friends or family with a potluck. That means you only take one favorite item. Let others enjoy being in charge.
  • Accept an invitation to someone else’s feast and take one item you make or buy.

This may be a good year to accept that there are manageable ways to reduce the workload while keeping cherished experiences which Thanksgiving can bring.

Your celebration doesn’t have to be labor-intensive to be splendid. In fact, a bit of relaxing and enjoying the company of others may be just what the doctor ordered!

In the end, let Thanksgiving be about good times, fine food, and making memories. It can be helpful to have some help.

Papa can provide another set of hands to run errands, keep you company, etc. A college “grandkid for a day” can give a much-needed infusion of youth which we all know is welcome for us seniors.

Wishing you and yours a calm observance of the holidays this year.

Senior with carevgiver and wheelchair

Five Precautions to Take If You Have Elderly at Home

Having an elderly at home can be a bit difficult since you need to take care of them like one takes care of an infant.

Still, as many precautions as you may take to make sure they remain safe and sound are less.

There are specific ways in which you can protect your beloved parent from falling prey to the various calamities older adults tend to suffer from.

Five Precautions to Take If You Have Elderly at Home

1) Arrange Furniture Strategically

In places like living rooms, you should place the furniture in a way that is not confusing or doesn’t cram the space so the elderly can freely move around.

If your elderly uses a wheelchair, keep a space free and designated for their wheelchair and make sure it can be moved around freely.

Also, make sure all the electronic chords are tucked under the rugs or taped to the floors or walls so that they don't get tangled in them and fall.

2) Make the Bathroom Safe

You should keep in mind that a bathroom is a place where seniors tend to fall more because space is slippery and watery.

Install anti-skid matt in the bathtub to prevent falling; you can also have it installed in the shower so that they don't fall.

Install grab-on bars beside the shower so that they have something to hold onto while taking a shower.

Also, consider getting installed those toilet seats with armrests installed so that using the toilet is also safe.

Make sure the bathroom light is always working so that nobody falls.

3) Install Necessary Equipment

Make sure you have all the necessary equipment installed at your home such an alarm, smoke and carbon monoxide detector, etc. installed.

Also, ensure that the electricity system is working fine to prevent a short circuit.

If you work, chances are your parent is going to be alone at home in your absence, so you need to ensure all the systems are up and working just fine.

These precautions will only help you in the long run.

4) Request a Papa Pal

If you’re too worried about your parent’s caregiving for the time when you’re working at the office, you can request a Papa Pal.

A Papa Pal will be better able to take care of your loved one in your absence.

They would be careful about their meals and showing them an amazing social experience. And the best part is, they won’t feel lonely.

5) Keep Their Finances Secure

You ought to make sure that the financial matters of your elderly parent are being taken care of; you can do that by taking their power of attorney and maintain the books for them. This will keep them care-free.

These simple steps will help you take better care of your loved ones and keep them safe and sound.

Author Bio: This article was written by Chris Palmer who regularly shares advice on elderly care.

In particular dementia and supporting your elderly parent. You can find more by Chris on AgeSpace


Helping When a Friend is Diagnosed with a Chronic Disease

If an older friend or loved one is struggling with a serious illness, there are several fairly easy actions friends can take to provide caring and unforgettable support.

When a senior or boomer is diagnosed with cancer or another chronic disease, people wonder how to react. There are some reactions which are much more helpful than others.

When a friend has such an illness, the whole family is shaken. Any support given to anyone in the family helps the patient also.

What the Senior or Boomer Patient Has Just Gone Through

It all may start with a phone call from the doctor’s office saying more tests are needed. After that, the results are questionable requiring maybe one more test. Then there’s a conference where the patient is told to bring the spouse.

It’s the C word – cancer, or some other serious illness. One only has to imagine the terror and roller coaster of emotions the family must feel.

Life is turned upside down with worries about money, isolation, life decisions, and caregiving.

All of these and more are on top of life-rending fatigue, grief, and pain. Helplessness and hopelessness are the worst issues to be dealt with upon receiving a troublesome diagnosis.

Good Things to Say to a Senior Diagnosed with a Serious Illness

It usually is not enough just to say “Call me if you need anything” since the patient is not in a condition to organize needs and make phone calls.

Engage the patient and/or family in short conversations. There will be tears; there must be hugs and lots of listening.

Effective conversation involves staying in the present since anticipating the future struggles may only bring more anxiety. Share a snack, or just a moment and be aware of being alive right now.

In talking with the patient or family members, accept the fact that they are going through the stages of grief. Don’t argue with their logic; just lend an accepting ear.

Keep in mind visits need to be fairly short. It’s better to make two or three short visits rather than one long one. (The patient often won’t admit how very tiresome visits may be, even though such short check-ins are vitally needed.)

Especially after a few weeks or months, many well-wishers have returned to their normal lives, but the patient is still languishing and lonesome.

Visits at that time are especially cherished. In addition, sending cards, emails, and notes will remind the patient that his or her friend cares and is sending good thoughts.

Good Things to Do for a Senior Who is Diagnosed with a Chronic Disease

When the patient is home, even more support is needed, but still remember to keep visits fairly short.

▪ Take over a meal, doing the dishes while there, or take the trash as you leave if the meal is disposable. (Don’t worry about it being your best cooking; they don’t have time or energy to cook, and will be grateful for whatever you bring.)

▪ Run an errand.

▪ Take the kids for a movie, an afternoon, the weekend.

▪ Mow the yard, once or regularly, or band together with several others to do this, or contract with someone to do it.

▪ Take someone to the doctor, chemo, radiation, or whatever is needed.

▪ Give the caregiver a respite (e.g. tickets to a movie or spa while you stay with the patient).

▪ Stop by and play a game of cards, a board game, a favorite video game, or watch a movie.

▪ Take cookies or another favorite food, even non-perishable snacks for the family since kitchen duties suffer in most homes when chronic disease is present.

▪ Buy groceries once or regularly, or organize a church, work or social group to do this. For those who have email, the patient or spouse can email a grocery list and the shopper can deliver the groceries on a predetermined day, (One group who helped me when my hubby was bed bound called themselves The Saturday Shoppers.) There may be other people who don’t have time to do the shopping but would contribute to the cost. Find what works.

▪ Take a portable DVD player with several movies to help pass the long hours in bed. Get one started before you leave in case the patient is gushy about technology. You can also play a movie for the patient while you visit with the caregiver.

Tips for Helping Seniors When Weight Loss is an Issue

Sometimes people fighting chronic illness have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. Some patients are in a weight loss mode.

One way to help is to ask the patient or spouse what favorite foods are, then gather a large supply of them.

Be aware of the need for protein, and stay within the prescribed guidelines. Make up a snack box to put by bed or chair so it’s easily reachable by the patient, yet sealed enough to not attract bugs, etc. Include some hand wipes, bottled water, and a trash container within easy reach.

This can go a long way toward empowering the patient to feel more self-sufficiency while it will give the caregiver a break.

Being diagnosed with a serious disease is quite a challenge for any senior or boomer. There are ways to help by visiting, listening, and providing moral support.

Be proactive by acting on the senior patient’s behalf to make life easier by bringing food, doing chores, and sending cards. The very long path toward healing can be made so much better by caring and participation of friends.

If you live farther away or have to be at work, you may wish someone could stand in your stead.

Papa can match you up with college caregivers who can help in many of the ways listed above. Just an hour or so a day or two a week can make such a difference in the life of both the patient and the caregiver.

Papa may be just the idea you need to give your family member or friend much-needed support on a regular basis.


Best ways to help seniors aging in place

Being able to stay in their own home is important to many senior citizens. But this goal can get harder to accomplish as they get older and lose the ability to perform certain tasks. That doesn’t mean they necessarily have to move in with family or to a retirement home. It just means they need a little extra help, which you or other trusted adults can provide in the following ways.

Help Seniors Around the House

Many seniors aging in place eventually lose the ability to cook or clean, so they might need some dependable & fun assistance for your aging parent. If you live nearby and have a little time to spare, you can stop by regularly to straighten out their house and perform tasks like taking out the trash and doing the dishes and laundry. Dropping off precooked meals that will last a few days would be a big help, too, ensuring they’re not constantly ordering pizza or getting fast food every day because they can no longer cook. Of course, many people don’t have the time to perform these tasks for elderly loved ones on a regular basis, which is why you can hire a Papa Pal to do it for you as often as necessary.

Deliver Groceries and Other Necessities for Seniors

Your elderly loved one may need help keeping the essentials in stock. That includes everything from food and drinks to toilet paper and light bulbs. If you don’t have time to take your family member shopping once a week, a Papa Pal can do it as often as your relative needs. He or she can even help your loved one learn to use technology like Amazon to order household goods and groceries.

Make the House Safer for Seniors

If you want some peace of mind as a loved one ages in place, you should ensure the environment is safe. This is as simple as installing support rails in the bathroom, such as next to the toilet and shower. You can even install toilets, counters, and sinks that are a little higher so your elderly relative doesn’t have to bend very far to use them. Adding extra lighting and making sure floors are not slippery can also help keep your loved one safe while aging in place. And of course, you can hire Papa Pals to check on him or her frequently if you’re ever worried about safety at home.

Provide Social Opportunities for Seniors and Caregivers

Staying social is an important part of aging in place since seniors can easily get depressed when they have no contact with the outside world. Your loved one would likely appreciate you and other adults visiting often, even just to talk and especially to listen. You can also set up outings, such as to local stores, the mall, movies, and restaurants. But you don’t have to be your relative’s only friend. In fact, it’s important to ensure they make other friends who share similar interests. You can help with this by signing up your relative for a local senior center and making sure they have a ride there on a regular basis. In addition, Papa Pals can provide transportation to social activities, and they also serve as a new friend to talk to when your loved one is feeling lonely.

If you live far away from your aging loved one, or you simply don’t have time to regularly check in, you can still provide quality care by hiring someone to perform these helpful tasks. At Papa, we’re happy to provide on-demand personal help to seniors aging in place. Papa Pals are enthusiastic, friendly and able to help with everything from grocery shopping and cooking to transportation and good conversation. Contact us today to schedule a Papa Pal to offer the help your loved one needs.