Older adults make up 12% of the US population, but account for 18% of all suicide deaths. This is an alarming statistic, as the elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population, making the issue of later-life suicide a major public health priority.
An obstacle faced by mental health professionals and other caregivers in supporting this group is that older adults do not usually seek treatment for mental health problems. Because of this, family, friends, and caregivers can play an important role in prevention.
What are the Warning Signs?
- Loss of interest in things or activities that are usually found enjoyable
- Cutting back social interaction, self-care, and grooming
- Breaking medical regimens (such as going off diets, prescriptions)
- Experiencing or expecting a significant personal loss (spouse or other)
- Feeling hopeless and/or worthless
- Putting affairs in order, giving things away, or making changes in wills
- Stock-piling medication or obtaining other lethal means
- Other clues are a preoccupation with death or a lack of concern about personal safety. Remarks such as “This is the last time that you’ll see me,” or “I won’t be needing anymore appointments” should raise concern.
- The most significant indicator is an expression of suicidal intent.
Courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health.
There are countless reasons that older adults are more susceptible to the nation’s 10th leading cause of death. One of the most prevalent is loneliness. Our elder population often live in isolation and may be struggling with the death of a lifelong husband or wife, or with the grief of losing other close family or friends.
With children often far from home, parents and grandparents can be left miles away, craving the love and human connection family visitation brings. For an older person living in isolation, having reliable home care company, for just a few hours or 24/7, is life support.
Home care companies like Touching Hearts at Home list “Companion Care” as one of the services provided by their staff of trained caregivers. Professional home care can be the answer by providing the vital role of companionship. People need people.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 7417.
-Ramona Hunt, M.S. Director of Leadership & Development, Touching Hearts, Inc.
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