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The Elderly Mental Health Concern We’d Rather Not Think About: Senior Suicide

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Learn the signs of senior suicide and how to help.

Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of gender, background or age.However, while the elderly account for just 13% of the population, they account for nearly 16% of all suicides. The statistics are shocking, especially knowing the elderly are the fastest growing segment of our population, making this elderly mental health concern – senior suicide – a public health priority.

Caucasian men aged 65 to 84 are at an even higher risk, accounting for 14.9 out of every 100,000 suicide deaths – and the number rises even higher in men over aged 85. It is estimated that suicide deaths in the elderly may be under-reported by over 40%.

These figures do not include the “silent suicides” – deaths from self-starvation, dehydration, accidents and overdoses. The elderly also have a higher than average rate of completing a suicide, as they are often deaths by firearms, hanging and drowning. And, there is a higher incidence of double suicide involving a spouse among the elderly population.

Senior suicide is often the result of an untreated elderly mental health condition. Although common, suicidal thoughts should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.Health care providers often report that the elderly have an exceedingly difficult time in talking with others, especially mental health professionals, about their feelings or challenges. This is largely due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues and makes missed detection the biggest contributor in the high suicide rates among the elderly.

Those at Risk

It is very difficult to identify individuals at risk for suicide, even for professionals. However, there are some risk factors to keep in mind:

  • Being a white male over the age of 65
  • Prolonged, chronic or terminal illness
  • Pain, especially if pain is severe, chronic
  • Depression
  • Alcohol abuse and/or dependence
  • Financial difficulties
  • Recent loss of a spouse, loved one, or pet
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Physical, social and emotional Isolation/loneliness
  • Loss of role or stature in family or community
  • Recent change in living situation or employment status or productive activities

Warning Signs

The following are common warning signs that an elderly person may be contemplating suicide:

  • Crying and sad mood; typical signs of depression
  • Weight loss and poor appetite
  • Feeling trapped in a situation and unable to see a way out
  • Statements about death and suicide
  • Statements about being a burden
  • Reading material about death and suicide
  • Statements of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness
  • Disruption of sleep patterns (insomnia or over-sleeping)
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Giving away possessions
  • Increased alcohol or prescription drug use
  • Failure to take care of self or follow medical orders
  • Stockpiling medications
  • Sudden interest in firearms
  • Withdrawal of social interactions or elaborate good-byes
  • Rush to complete or revise a will

How to Help

As many as 50% to 75% of elders considering suicide will give someone a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say something, and not everyone who threatens suicide will make an attempt, though every threat of suicide should be taken seriously. Remaining aware of the risk factors and warning signs and talking openly to your loved one about your concerns are critical in preventing elder suicide.

It is also important to identify the mental health professionals in the community who can provide assistance. Remember, you never have to be alone in seeking help for your loved one, and if you are unsure whether your loved one is immediately at risk for suicide, get help by taking the individual to the nearest emergency room for evaluation and treatment.

One great resource is the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour toll-free Friendship Line for elder adults in crisis: 800-971-0016. Their trained professionals are available to support seniors who are struggling with depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts. The Veteran’s Crisis Line is also available toll-free 24 hours a day for senior veterans and their families to receive counselling and support: 800-273-8255.

At Nightingale Homecare, the top providers of senior home care Phoenix families trust, we offer a program devoted to elderly mental health and safety: Transitions. Our team of experts (nurses, social workers, and therapists) can provide an assessment to determine if depression, anxiety, coping skills and other emotional concerns are in place, and determine what resources would be most beneficial. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 any time to learn more.


What Happens When a Caregiver Has a Chronic Illness?

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Learn how to care for the caregiver with chronic illness.

Chronic illness has become a major issue in the U.S. in recent years. According to the National Health Council, approximately 133 million Americans, representing more than 40% of the total population of the country, are currently affected by chronic disease, and that number is expected to grow to an estimated 157 million Americans by 2020. When it comes to caregiving, we’re often concerned with how to care for seniors who are living with chronic conditions, like diabetes, COPD, dementia, etc., but what happens when it’s the person providing the care who has the chronic illness?

Caring for a loved one is demanding and stressful, but can be even more challenging when the family caregiver has a chronic illness too. Chronic conditions like diabetes and COPD are also stressful and demanding in their own right, and family caregivers who are living will these types of conditions need to take extra measures to ensure they are caring for themselves.

The following are ways in which caregivers with chronic diseases can keep up with their loved ones’ care and their own health:

  • Practice self-care. The stress of caregiving coupled with the stress of caring for a chronic illness can take a big toll on a family caregiver’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Practicing self-care is incredibly important for caregivers with chronic illness as it helps them relax and regain balance. Small things like taking a hot bath, meditating, taking a yoga class, or sitting down for coffee with close friends can help caregivers relieve stress and feel refreshed.
  • Keep up with doctors’ appointments. Just as a caregiver strives to ensure his senior loved one is going to her doctors’ appointments, the same needs to happen for the family caregiver, especially if he suffers from a chronic illness. Keeping up with doctors’ appointments and taking prescribed medications on time and correctly are essential for the caregiver’s health and wellbeing.
  • Have a backup plan. As a senior’s care needs progress, so do the demands of the family caregiver. For example, a senior who falls and injures herself may now need lifting and transferring assistance, which can be difficult, if not impossible, for a family caregiver with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s important to have a backup care plan for the progressing care needs of your loved one, and for the times when you as the caregiver need to take a break for your own health needs. Respite care services, like those offered by Nightingale’s Phoenix home care professionals, can help family caregivers take time off to care for themselves while ensuring their loved ones get the care and attention they need.

While caregivers are amazing people, they aren’t super human, and it’s vital to ensure they keep their own care needs in check as well as their senior loved ones’. If you’re caring for a senior loved one and could use a helping hand, contact the professional Phoenix home caregivers at Nightingale Homecare to learn how we can be there for you.

Signs and Symptoms of Infection

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Learn the top signs of infection to watch for in your senior loved ones.

Infectious diseases are disorders caused by organisms — such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Many organisms live in and on our bodies. They’re normally harmless or even helpful, but under certain conditions, some organisms may cause disease.

Some infectious diseases can be passed from person to person. Some are transmitted by bites from insects or animals. Others are acquired by ingesting contaminated food or water or being exposed to organisms in the environment.

Signs and symptoms vary depending on the organism causing the infection, but often include fever and fatigue. Mild infections may respond to rest and home remedies, while some life-threatening infections may require hospitalization.

Many infectious diseases, such as measles and chickenpox, can be prevented by vaccines. Frequent and thorough hand-washing also helps protect you from most infectious diseases.
Each infectious disease has its own specific signs and symptoms, but there are some generalized indicators that an infection may be present across the board, such as:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Coughing

Below are some particular signs and symptoms you may see, in addition to, or instead of the ones listed above, based upon certain types of infection. Be sure to contact your senior loved one’s physician if any of these signs are noted:


  • Increased pain at or around the wound
  • Increased drainage from the wound site
  • Drainage with foul odor
  • Change in color of drainage, especially with yellow or green color and foul odor
  • Fever of 101 degrees or greater
  • Significant increase in redness and warmth around the wound


  • Shaking, chills, fever (100 to 104 degrees)
  • Chest pain
  • Productive cough, with green, thick yellow/tan or blood tinged sputum
  • Dry, hacking non-productive cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • White or pale blue skin tone around the lips


  • Pain in bladder region or lower back
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Frequency
  • Urgency
  • Incontinence
  • Frequent voiding at night
  • Cloudy, foul smelling urine
  • Blood in urine

The best way to combat infection, however, is through prevention. Taking these precautions can help:


  • Thoroughly wash hands before and after contact with open body secretions or drainage
  • Wear gloves when in contact with body fluids or drainage
  • Keep all wound or drainage supplies covered and in a clean area
  • Keep young children, pets, and pests away from supplies
  • Double bag all soiled dressings or disposables that have come in contact with body fluids
  • Clean and disinfect all equipment appropriately
  • Avoid contact with those who have a respiratory or other communicable infection

Helping older adults remain healthy, safe and well is our goal at Nightingale Homecare, and we’re always on hand to partner with families to provide resources, tips, and the professional in home care Phoenix AZ seniors need. Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 with questions or to schedule a free consultation, right in the comfort of home, to learn more ways we can help enhance quality of life for your senior loved one!

Surprising Benefits of Becoming a Family Caregiver

home care scottsdaleThe results are in: a recent survey of family caregivers revealed that nearly half of all of those providing care for a senior loved one were happy in their role. Though we know there are many challenges to overcome, there are just as many – if not more – benefits to serving as a family caregiver. Take a look at just a few of the many caregiver perks below:

  • The bond with your loved one is strengthened. Devoting time to caring for someone else naturally lends itself to getting to know each other better. Opportunities arise for the senior to share stories from the past and insight into his or her thoughts, feelings, values, etc. that you may not have otherwise known.
  • You gain empathy. We’re each on our own journey towards aging, and providing care for a loved one in her elder years helps us to discover how we will wish to be treated and cared for in our later years, as well as a more in-depth understanding of what that experience entails. A family caregiver becomes well equipped through simple acts of care to relate on a more personal level with the senior, strengthening her own character in the process.
  • You have a sense of purpose. Self-worth is one of the key elements of a fulfilled life, and providing care for others allows the family caregiver the satisfaction of knowing there is true meaning behind each task, as it directly impacts the quality of life of another.
  • You’re more self-confident. Although you may feel at times as though you’re making mistakes, it is precisely these mistakes that help us to learn and grow, leading to enhanced self-confidence. It’s also worth noting the importance of forgiving yourself for things you wish you’d done differently, and focus instead on the fact that you’re doing the very best you can for your loved one.
  • You’re healthier – and may even live longer than non-caregivers. Research shows that family caregivers have better cognitive functioning, are walking more and at a faster pace, and are living longer than those who are not providing care. Caring for someone else actually helps care for you!

The key is to find a healthy balance between meeting your loved one’s needs and meeting your own. A family caregiver who is hesitant to seek help and tries to manage everything alone is at risk for a variety of serious health concerns, including caregiver burnout, depression, and more. Taking care of yourself is the single kindest task you can do for your senior loved one, as it enables you to provide a higher quality level of care when your own emotional and physical needs are met.

At Nightingale Homecare, top providers of the in home care Scottsdale seniors need, can provide the trusted respite care to allow family members to take much-needed breaks from care while knowing their loved one is in the very best hands. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!

How to Safely Manage Senior Medications

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Our Surprise home care pros offer helpful tips on managing senior medications safely.

At Nightingale Homecare, the top Surprise home care agency, we often hear from seniors and their families about the challenges they’re facing with senior medications. As people age, it’s not uncommon for their doctors to prescribe a complicated list of senior medications to manage and prevent health conditions. While these medications may be helpful, remembering which medications to take every day can be overwhelming. In addition to making medication schedules difficult to remember, polypharmacy (taking multiple medications to manage health conditions) presents the potential for drug interactions that can pose health threats to aging adults.

It’s vital for seniors and caregivers to understand their medications, what each is for, and what side effects could present. The following are important questions to ask your or your loved one’s physician, pharmacist and/or your health care team:

  • What is the name, generic name, spelling and dose of the medication?
  • Which medical diagnosis is the medication for?
  • How often and when should I take the medication?
  • What are the goals of the medication?
  • Is there a non-drug treatment?
  • What changes should I expect with the medication?
  • How should I take the medication, what should I take it with, or avoid taking it with?
  • What are the side effects of the medication?
  • Do I have co-existing disorders that may contribute to side effects?
  • Does the medication interact with other prescription or non-prescription medications that I take?
  • Is it safe to drink alcohol with the medication?
  • If I’m feeling better, should I decrease or stop the medication?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • How should the medication be stored?
  • Should I refill the medication? How many times?

Safety and Medication

It will be important for seniors and their caregivers to keep a current and complete list of all medications including prescriptions, over-the-counter, vitamins and herbal supplements. It is especially important to bring this list to all of the senior’s medical appointments. As herbal medications and supplements vary widely in ingredients, bring the bottles with you to your physician or pharmacy so it can be determined if there is a risk for interaction with other medications you are taking.

Keep in mind that drug names may look or sound alike. Read each label carefully and clarify with the physician or pharmacist.

It will be important to keep a schedule and diary of when medications are taken, and list any side effects experienced, and then share that information with the physician.

Pay particular attention to these side effects, which can increase fall risk:

  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Coordination loss or other balance issues

One excellent way to keep senior medications in order is to use a pill box and a timer as a reminder for the senior to take each medicine.

There’s a lot to remember and to keep organized when it comes to managing senior medications, but you don’t have to do it all alone! The home care professionals at the top Surprise home care agency, Nightingale Homecare, are on hand to help in a variety of ways. Our registered nurses can help set up a pill box and reminder system, and ensure that all medications are taken exactly as prescribed. We can also work with the senior’s medical team to get answers to any questions related to medications, to help get any concerns addressed, and even pick up prescription refills for you! Contact us any time to learn more at (602) 504-1555.