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Posts Tagged “Mental Health”

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

senior home care Phoenix  son with senior father looking depressed

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.


Nightingale’s Phoenix Caregivers Suggest These Tips for Recognizing and Overcoming Senior Depression

Phoenix CaregiversWe all go through periods of time where we just want to be alone for a little while, to think through situations in our lives without distraction, or to simply have some downtime to ourselves. For older adults, however, an extended period of isolation could indicate one of the all-too-common problems for seniors: depression.

At Nightingale Homecare, our Phoenix caregivers have walked beside many of our senior clients who struggle with depression. First and foremost, it’s important to contact the physician immediately if depression is suspected. It is a treatable condition, and help is available.

Keep an eye out for any of the following red flags of depression in your senior loved ones:

  • Loss: Loss in a variety of ways is a key indicator of depression or other medical concern: loss of weight, appetite, self-worth, interest in once enjoyed activities or hobbies, or in spending time with friends or family.
  • Slowness: Take note if the senior’s speech or movements have slowed down, if energy and motivation are decreased, or if it takes her longer than normal to recall or share memories.
  • Sleep: Depression can wreak havoc on healthy sleep patterns, causing difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up, or staying awake and alert during the day.
  • Neglect: Pay close attention to changes in how the senior takes care of herself; for example, if she has always been attentive to her personal appearance and hygiene, and suddenly begins to neglect personal care, including eating healthy, taking medications, etc.

There are a number of conditions that can either mask as depression or make existing depression worse. Be especially mindful if your senior loved one has or has experienced:

  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • Thyroid conditions

Suspected depression in seniors should never be taken lightly, or shrugged off as, “She’s just feeling sad; she’ll get over it!” It is a chronic medical condition and requires help and treatment.

And, you don’t have to go it alone! The Phoenix caregivers of Nightingale Homecare are here to help seniors struggling through depression or any other condition. We’re experienced in providing compassionate, understanding care for seniors, serving as a friendly companion to help gently encourage healthy eating, participation in social activities, and exercise programs, provide transportation to doctors’ appointments and to pick up prescriptions, and more.

Contact us at 602-504-1555 any time for more tips on helping seniors with depression, or to begin a dialogue about how in-home care from our Phoenix caregivers can help your senior loved one experience a renewed interest in life.

Posted in Aging Issues, Blog, Caregiving on September 7th, 2016 · Comments Off on Nightingale’s Phoenix Caregivers Suggest These Tips for Recognizing and Overcoming Senior Depression