“If you see any signs that an older loved one might be considering suicide, take action.”
You may not hear about it on the news, but our seniors are ending their own lives at an alarming rate.
Among all adult age groups, people age 85 and up have the highest suicide rates. Even between the age of 65 and 85, older Americans have a high rate of suicide. Ignoring it or pretending it does not exist, will not solve this tragic predicament. We must talk about the silent epidemic – elder suicide.
What Can Drive a Senior to Take His Own Life?
Before you rush to judgment on seniors who contemplate taking their own lives, consider what they may be facing. Here are 12 of the top reasons older adults might feel that suicide is a viable option:
- They are staring at their mortality, which can be depressing for many.
- They may be suffering from painful medical conditions that make every day an endurance test.
- They may be running out of money and be terrified that they will end up homeless or impoverished.
- They may have had to bury one of their children or grandchildren.
- Their spouse has died, so they do not want to go on with life alone.
- Their friends are dying.
- They are lonely. Retirement can be isolating.
- Their physical limitations render them unable to do the things they used to do.
- They are mortified by the invasion of their modesty, because they need help with bathing, toileting, and dressing.
- They feel that everything will only get worse, not better.
- They have struggled with mental health issues for years.
- They feel as if they have lost control of everything in their lives, and the only thing left for them to control is their death.
What Can You Do?
If you see any signs that an older loved one might be considering suicide, take action. She might comment she feels like a burden on others. He might withdraw from activities he previously enjoyed. She might have mood changes, that are sudden or gradual. Some older adults are more irritable than sad or visibly depressed. They may feel as if they do not fit into today’s world.
The correct steps to take will depend on the circumstances. Your options include reaching out directly to the senior, calling a suicide or seniors hotline, contacting Adult Protective Services, and talking with friends and relatives of the older adult. Set up a schedule of well-being checks and spread the duty out among several of your loved one’s friends and relatives. This lessens the work for everyone and shows the senior that multiple people care about her.
You can educate yourself and get valuable resources at the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention. The Center provides volunteers who counsel older people and connect with them on the Center’s Friendship Line. Sometimes a lonely, sad senior just needs someone to listen and to talk with them.
Your local elder law attorney can advise you about what services and options are available in your area. Since the laws are different all over the nation, talk with your lawyer about the laws of your state, as they might vary from the general law discussed in this article.
HuffPost. “How Do We Stop The Elderly Suicide Epidemic?” (accessed April 4, 2018) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-do-we-stop-the-elderly-suicide-epidemic_us_59b0439ce4b0c50640cd641f
Institute on Aging. “Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention.” (accessed April 5, 2018) https://www.ioaging.org/services/all-inclusive-health-care/psychological-services/center-for-elderly-suicide-prevention