Dear Donna:

My mom has been my dad’s primary caregiver for almost three years now. Winter is a tough time for her. My dad has mobility issues that make it difficult for him to get around, especially during bad weather. Even though I visit often, they are fairly isolated during the long Michigan winter.

My mom’s case of the blues seems to begin around the holidays and lasts until warmer weather returns. I’d like to prevent that from happening this year and wondered if you had any suggestions.


Luke in Gladwin, MI

Helping a Loved One Prevent Caregiver Depression

Dear Luke:

Winter can be a difficult season for many people, especially caregivers. Isolation is linked to a variety of health issues ranging from depression to weight gain. The coldest season of the year is also linked to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder. So, there are many reasons to take extra steps to prioritize mental health during the winter.

A few that might help you support your mother this holiday season and winter include:

  • Eating a healthy diet

When you are feeling blue, it is tempting to load up on comfort foods and sugary treats. While it can help in the moment, it actually makes the situation worse in the long run. Researchers have identified a link between diet and depression. People who follow a healthy diet are less likely to suffer from depression than those who consume processed foods and sugar.

  • Getting regular exercise

The demands on a busy caregiver’s schedule might make exercise feel like a luxury. However, physical fitness is good for the body, mind, and spirit. Encouraging your mom to exercise thirty minutes most days of the week might help protect her mental health. Two fifteen-minute exercise sessions a day will yield the same results as thirty continuous minutes.

  • Making sleep a priority

Sleep issues are another common challenge for family caregivers. Some people have trouble getting to sleep, while others can’t seem to stay asleep. This can occur for many reasons, most notably stress and fatigue. Regardless of the reason, sleep deprivation can contribute to seasonal depression. Talk with your mom to see if this is a problem for her. She may need to consult with her primary care doctor for advice if it is.

  • Encouraging remote check-ins

Socializing is essential to feeling connected. Spending even a few hours a week with friends and family can restore the spirit and make a caregiver feel less alone. If your mom isn’t able to visit with friends and family in person this winter, use a video chat platform to connect virtually. During COVID-19 lockdowns, many people became comfortable using programs like Skype and Zoom for video chats.

  • Considering respite care services

Caregivers need a break on a regular basis, including the holidays. Whether it’s a few hours a week or a couple of days a month, encourage your mom to take time for herself. Respite care at a senior living community can help. These short-term programs allow family members to keep a loved one safe while the caregiver takes a break.

I hope these tips are useful to you and your mom this winter!

Kind regards,


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