Winter brings colder weather and longer nights. For individuals living with Memory Loss, however, this time of year can pose unique challenges that affect their well-being. Known as the “winter blues,” the cold and dark months can bring feelings of isolation, confusion, and frustration for those living with a form of Memory Loss.

By taking a holistic approach to winter wellness, there are ways to help alleviate these effects and promote a sense of comfort and joy during this season. In this blog post, we will explore how incorporating various techniques such as physical activity, nutrition, social engagement, and creative stimulation can make a significant impact on the well-being of individuals living with Memory Loss during the winter months.

The Challenges of Winter for People Living with Memory Loss

Winter can be a challenging time for anyone, but for people living with Memory Loss, it can be particularly difficult. Reduced sunlight exposure can negatively impact mood, and increased social isolation during the colder months can exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Changes in the brain caused by Memory Loss can make it even more challenging to cope with changes in routine, which can be common during the winter season.

Additionally, these challenges can lead to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that often occurs during the winter months. SAD can cause a range of symptoms including depressed mood, loss of interest in activities, changes in sleep and appetite, and difficulty concentrating. While the exact scientific cause of SAD has yet to be discovered, medical researchers believe factors such as the decrease in natural sunlight can disrupt the circadian rhythm, cause a drop in serotonin levels, and lead to an imbalance of melatonin levels.

Signs and symptoms of SAD include losing interest in social activities, mood swings, increased anxiety, low energy, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and disrupted sleep patterns. Care partners need to be aware of these challenges and provide support where needed.

How to Overcome the Winter Blues

Overcoming the winter blues can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. Below are a few ways individuals living with Memory Loss can improve their physical, emotional, and mental health during the winter.

Physical Wellness

While Memory Loss, including Alzheimer’s, can rob a person of their memory and cognitive abilities, it can also hurt their physical health. Following a nutritious meal plan with fortified cereals, salmon, eggs, and mushrooms can provide the much-needed vitamin D that is lacking during the winter months.

Engaging in light physical activities such as walking, swimming, dancing, and yoga can also stimulate blood flow, which is vital for brain function. Physical movement, even in small capacities, helps to strengthen muscles, regulate blood pressure, and maintain a healthy weight.

Emotional Well-Being

Individuals living with Memory Loss have a higher risk of developing depression, specifically seasonal affective disorder. Since a person’s emotional state affects their physical and mental health, it is important to incorporate activities that support an individual’s emotional welfare too. During the winter months, it’s recommended that individuals maintain a healthy diet, engage in regular exercise, get enough sleep, and stay hydrated to support their emotional well-being.

Emotional support from family and friends through social interaction can also be beneficial. Visits, phone calls, and trips away from home can help improve the mood of someone living with Memory Loss and reduce their feelings of separation.

Mental Stimulation

Everyone requires mental stimulation during the winter as life becomes slower and there are fewer opportunities to be socially active. Cognitive activities can help boost a person’s mood while keeping their brain active. Group activities can also help stimulate social interaction with others.

Participating in crafts, puzzles, and brain games can help the day pass while improving the ability to use reasoning and rationale. Card games, sorting objects, word games, and engaging in conversations with others provide mental stimulation, especially for those living with Memory Loss.

Therapeutic Practices

Therapeutic practices come in various forms including light therapy, music therapy, and pet therapy. These interventions can be done in a home or a Memory Care setting.

Light therapy is beneficial for those living in areas, such as southern Ontario, where the wintertime has limited natural light due to shorter days. Special light boxes can offer artificial light exposure that helps to boost a person’s mental and emotional state.

Music therapy is becoming an important component of Memory Care and treating those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. When a person living with Memory Loss listens to their favourite genre of music, it can help decrease feelings of depression, isolation, and emotional stress.

Most people enjoy the hands-on interactions with animals. Pet therapy has been shown to boost mood, calm anxious thoughts, increase physical activity, and promote social interaction with others.

Family and Care Partners Support

Just as the person living with Memory Loss can face isolation, depression, and emotional strain during the winter months, so can their care partner(s). Care partners are often faced with numerous challenges in the winter such as time management, financial strain, sleep deprivation, lack of self-care, loneliness, and physical stress. Caring for another human being is a full-time effort and many care partners have families, financial responsibilities, and other jobs to be accountable for.

Incorporating respite care into a person’s Memory Care plan can improve the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of the care partner, as well as the person living with Memory Loss. This form of support can be found in solo or group therapy, Premium Day Programs, and short- or long-term care within a Memory Care environment.

Discover the Holistic Approach of Memory & Company for Winter Wellness

At Memory & Company, we understand the importance of maintaining the mind, body, and soul, especially during the winter months. As the world’s first Respite Hotel, we offer compassionate and comprehensive Alzheimer’s Memory Care.

Contact us at (905) 888-8808, email, or complete our online form to schedule a tour and personalized consultation at our Markham or Oakville locations.