Take pause during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, recognize statistics of suicide among seniors
Suicide among seniors is a reality in America. It’s not a pretty one, but if we take a closer look we can understand one of our most mislabeled social ills. Since we mark September as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, let’s use this time to pull back the curtain. We have statistics, causes, and symptoms.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 14.9 of every 100,000 individuals over 65 years of age in the U.S. commit suicide every year.
This is compared to 12.4 per 100,000 Americans of any age who will commit suicide each year. It is believed that the true number of suicides among seniors could be much higher because many coroners will go to great lengths to call the cause of death something else if the patient is elderly.
In our support for both elderly persons and their families, NAVIGATE NC helps to prevent issues such as suicide among seniors by helping folks understand the confusing parts of transition and aging. In order to best protect the elderly population, we have found it important to understand the causes and symptoms.
There are many reasons for suicide among seniors.
- Depression. Many senior adults are experiencing large changes in their lives. Examples of this include the loss of a spouse, distant family, loss of independence, or relocation. Significant changes such as these can lead to depression that may go unnoticed by doctors, nurses, and family members.
- Isolation. Some elderly parents are experiencing isolation, whether in a nursing home or in their own home. Physical illnesses, such as arthritis, will begin to make it harder to get out and talk to people which leads to heightened isolation issues. Isolation can usher in nutritional concerns, and we see that lead to even more medical concerns.
- Chronic Illnesses. Elderly adults may experience chronic health problems which may lead to chronic pain. Being in pain day in and day out can lead to feelings of hopelessness.
- Excessive Medications. All too often the number of medications increases with age, and some of these medications can have side effects that may actually lead elderly adults to consider suicide.
It is likely a good idea to watch for change among the senior adults we encounter. Sometimes change or problems can remain hidden. There may be one or several symptoms that begin to appear in advance of an elderly suicide event.
6 key indicators that an elderly parent or neighbor may be considering suicide are:
- Deep Sadness. If an elderly parent is frequently crying or sad, this is a good sign that their isolation or depression is overwhelming.
- Withdrawal. If the elderly individual will not talk or is very short in conversation, it may be a sign they are beginning to withdraw.
- Anger and rage. These could be signs that the senior adult is struggling and needs help.
- Abusing Drugs. When medication goes missing or is miscounted, it is a good time to begin having conversations with the senior.
- Losing Interest in Activities. If an elder suddenly begins to disengage and avoid activities, this can be a warning sign. For example, if the elder resides in a facility, whether Independent Living, rehab or skilled nursing, there are many activities available, scheduled, and routine. If we notice a change, it is likely significant.
- Giving Away Possessions. Be careful with this item. Most elderly adults will make plans for their items before they pass away. If they are giving away important personal items without logical reason, consider that this may be a precursor to elderly suicide.
To this list, we would add saying goodbye in an odd sort of way. Recently a gentleman we know placed undue emphasis on what should have been a casual goodbye to a neighbor, and it struck the neighbor as unusual. This was a change in his normal behavior. It bothered the neighbor to the degree that he manufactured a reason to go right back over to the elderly person’s house, and in doing so he effectively interrupted a suicide attempt. The neighbor listened to his gut and took action.
We must learn the reasons for suicide among seniors in order to become aware of the signs. Like the neighbor in the true story above, many of us will find that “being in touch with our gut” will help us to see change and respond.
The important question is… what do you do? Whether one or many of these suicide among seniors indicators begin to pop up, it is time to observe. For instance, if an elderly parent is living in an independent living, assisted living, or nursing home, contact the staff and ask if the elderly adult can be connected with a preferred counselor or psychiatrist. If the elderly parent is still living at home, it may be time for conversations about how to remain connected with friends and activities.
In any situation, if the signs begin to appear, contact NAVIGATE NC to connect your elderly loved ones with the services they need. We help families in Raleigh, Durham, and throughout North Carolina navigate the challenges that normally come with aging or with chronic disease.
Change. Sometimes we see it, sometimes we seek it, and sometimes we become overwhelmed by it. CONNECT WITH US on our website or call NAVIGATE NC at (919) 628-4428 to schedule a free initial consultation. What is your gut suggesting right now?
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