Posted on Oct 11, 2013
Caregivers and family members should pay close attention to the topic of suicide among older adults and seniors.
In 2010, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, “The highest suicide rate (18.6) was among people 45 to 64 years old. The second highest rate (17.6) occurred in those 85 years and older.” Most of us find it hard to believe that the second highest rate is in the 85 plus segment.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) two of the most compelling risks factors in all suicides are the following:
- Depression, along with psychological illnesses, and substance abuse, account for “more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide.”
- The NIMH also stresses that having firearms in the home is another risk factor. In fact, according to the NIMH, firearms are used in more than half of suicides that occur in the US.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NINH) other risk factors in all suicides include previous suicide attempts, and having been exposed to a family member’s suicide.
There are additional risk factors in senior populations: increased social isolation, abandonment, age-related illnesses, dementia, medication, along with a diminished ability to live independently.
Signs That Raise Concerns:
- Listen and take appropriate steps when your loved has been showing signs of depression, and then starts inquiring about his old handgun that he locked away five years ago.
- When your mother or father start talking about not wanting to live anymore, you need to take action.
- It is time to get professional care, when a senior starts describing in detail how he or she wants to end their life, and even starts giving important items away. Along with the gift-giving they may say, “I want you to have this….don’t know when we will see each other again.”
What to do when concerns arise
- Never ignore the words of someone talking about suicide.
- Caregivers and family members should remain calm.
- Never leave patient alone.
- Make sure medications are not at the reach of someone who is suicidal. (Medication lockboxes can be purchased at some pharmacies and medical supply stores.)
- Make sure that guns, and all sharp objects, such as blades and knives are not in reach, and out of the home.
- Immediately contact patient’s family physicians or therapists.
- Take loved one or patient to the emergency room.
- Contact 911. Do not hang up, give the name, age, and address of patient. Follow emergency services instructions.
The 24/7 Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). According to the American Foundation Suicide Prevention Hotline, callers will be connected to skilled/trained counselors.
Ana P. Delane Senior Helpers Orlando