Elderly suicide is a very serious – and growing – problem. The elderly, those age 65 and older, comprise about 13% of the U.S. population, yet they account for over 18% of all suicides. This, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, is a trend that could be on the rise as more boomers begin to enter retirement.
Suicide in the Elderly
That’s a powerful statement and heartbreaking, too. The most common cause for elderly suicide is the same as it is in the total population: untreated depression. You might also be surprised to learn that nearly one-third of those over the age of 65 experience depression.
There are other warning signs, and for the most part, they mirror the same warning signs as the general population:
A 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
There are very real concerns about the potential for future Medicare and Medicaid cuts, Social Security reductions, the still-weak economy and medical costs and illnesses will further drive those numbers. Make no mistake – depression is not simply part of growing old. Depression isn’t normal for anyone, regardless of their age. Yet, the older we become, the greater the odds are that chemical imbalances become a very real problem.
Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Recommendations
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare also suggest loved ones keep an eye on their elder family members who take certain medications that can also result in a hastened onset of depression:
- Blood pressure medication
- Arthritis medication
CMC also recommends close monitoring of any elderly person, especially after any stressful life event such as the loss of a spouse, a difficult surgical procedure or hospital stay or a move to a nursing home in an unfamiliar environment.
Many elderly people will hide their depression because they do not want to be seen as weak, crazy, or suffering from dementia or possible Alzheimer’s disease. Keep an eye for any of the potential warning signs and most importantly, families should always keep the lines of communication open with their elderly loved ones. Remind them that help is available and don’t forget to include them in different goings-on, even if it’s dinner out on a Tuesday night. The more social interaction, the better, provided they’re healthy enough to participate. Encourage them to speak openly and if possible, to remain active in their community or neighborhood.
Depression is difficult at any age, but if your elderly loved one is struggling, she doesn’t have to. To learn more about qualifying for Medicaid or other services for your loved ones, contact our offices today.