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Researchers Find Dementia Is Worse in Winter & Spring

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There are many mental health issues, including depression and schizophrenia, that can be affected by the changing seasons. This tends to happen because shifting temperatures, light levels, and even plant growth can affect a variety of processes inside the body. A new study conducted by researchers at Columbia University and published in PLOS Medicine is one of the first to examine how changing seasons affect dementia symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about the link between dementia and seasonal changes.

How the Study Was Conducted

This study was extremely intensive and involved a wide variety of seniors. The researchers looked at more than 3,300 seniors in Canada, France, and the United States to see how seasons affect cognition. During the study, the researchers administered neuropsychological tests, evaluated cerebrospinal fluid for biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, and measured cognitive function.

What the Study Found

The researchers found a very strong connection between seasons and the expression of dementia symptoms. On average, cognitive levels were higher in summer and fall and dipped during winter and spring. Seniors were also far more likely to exhibit enough symptoms to qualify for a dementia diagnosis in winter and spring. These results remained the same even when researchers instituted controls to confirm that depression, sleep levels, and physical activity weren’t skewing the data. 

This information can be quite helpful for both family and professional caregivers who care for older adults with dementia. Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Bethlehem families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care.

Why Seasons Affect Dementia

This study primarily focused on proving the link between dementia and the winter and spring seasons, so the researchers didn’t get too far into the details of why this was happening. However, some of the research does provide clues about why seniors might exhibit more dementia symptoms during certain seasons. The study found that levels of cerebrospinal fluid were higher in the summer, indicating the brain can operate more effectively during this time. The researchers also found that certain genes associated with cognition are better expressed at certain times due to seasonal changes in the body. 

No matter what time of year, a trained caregiver with experience in caring for seniors with dementia can be a fantastic resource for family members. Families looking for top-rated Bethlehem home care service providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones.

Limitations of the Study

This research is truly revolutionary, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely foolproof. An issue with the study was that it only looked at seniors in the Northern Hemisphere. Seasons are switched in the earth’s Southern Hemisphere, so the researchers hope to do a study on people who live on that part of the planet to see what results reveal.

What This Means for Seniors with Dementia

This study shows that seniors who are already predisposed toward dementia are more likely to exhibit symptoms in the springtime, so it may provide valuable information for those trying to diagnose dementia. More defined screening during the early spring and late winter may help doctors catch dementia at an early stage, which could be quite helpful because it lets seniors make plans and seek treatment before their dementia worsens.

If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, these findings may help you manage his or her care more effectively. Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Bethlehem Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care. Home Care Assistance can be your trusted partner in caregiving for your aging loved one. Contact one of our experienced Care Managers today at 484-350-3874 to learn more about our reliable in-home care services.