Are you a caregiver for a parent or senior loved one with dementia? Have you noticed that your loved one exhibits various disease symptoms depending on the season? Recent research has found that the seasons do, in fact, have an influence on dementia symptoms.
Learn more about the recent study and how dementia symptoms can worsen in the spring.
Dementia Symptoms Worsen in Certain Seasons
Experts have known that seasons can impact the brain for some time. Medical professionals have been aware that seasonal changes can result in a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Additionally, other mental disorders, like schizophrenia, are more likely to begin during the winter months. Recently, researchers aimed to find if there was a seasonal component to dementia as well.
What scientists discovered was that aging adults, both with and without dementia, were found to have worse cognitive skills in the spring and winter seasons, reports the study, published in PLOS Medicine.
“We had previously discovered that the change in seasons causes large-scale alterations in the nucleus and function of brain cells in older individuals. We hypothesized that, if brain cell function was changing so much… it might also be affected by seasonal rhythms,” states the co-author of the study, Dr. Philip De Jager, professor of neurology at Columbia University.
Study Shows How Dementia Symptoms Worsen in the Spring
Researchers took a close look at the findings in other studies of aging adults in Canada, France and the United States. These studies included 3,353 participants, who researchers conducted neurological and psychological testing on.
The study findings showed that there was a strong link between cognition and seasons, including that:
- Cognitive function was higher in the fall and summer months when compared with spring and winter
- The chance of getting diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that oftentimes precludes dementia, was 31% higher in the spring and winter months
- There was nearly a 5-year difference in age-related decline in the spring and winter months
In conclusion, the studies indicate that there is a significant association between cognition and season of the year in aging adults —including those with dementia. Increasing the number of clinical resources for treating dementia in the spring and winter months may lend itself to improving the overall treatment of the disease in the future.
“There may be value in increasing dementia-related clinical resources in the early spring and winter when symptoms are likely to be more pronounced,” the study authors explain.
Understanding that there is a scientific basis for the worsening of disease symptoms during the spring and winter seasons, may help caregivers to better prepare themselves for dementia symptoms and the overall needs of care recipients.
Are you a caregiver to a parent or senior loved one with dementia? Have you noticed dementia symptoms worsen in your loved one in the spring? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.