Elderly suicide is such a difficult topic to talk about.
No one is really comfortable talking about death and dying. And yet 18% of all suicide deaths in America consists of elderly suicide.
This is an alarming number, considering that only 12% of the total population are older adults.
The biggest problem is, we have little to no guidance on how to address these issues.
So today, we’ll discuss the best ways to address and respond to depression and elderly suicide.
One bright, sunny morning, you hear the birds singing outside.
Breakfast is laid on the kitchen table. The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafted across the room.
You made your mom’s favorite. Pancakes with blueberries, doused in syrup with extra butter.
Calling out, you expect to hear footsteps shuffling through the kitchen door. But no one comes.
So you call out again, this time a little bit louder to make sure she hears it.
Still, no familiar shuffle comes.
So you decide to take a peek. You think to yourself, maybe her hearing aid is not on again. Or it might have lost its batteries.
You walk down the hallway and call out, ‘Mom, can you hear me?”. You do this because you know she can be startled in the morning.
As you come closer, you hear little sobs from her door, slightly opened.
Then you get this sinking feeling… It’s going to be one of those days again.
You knock on the door, making sure she hears you and feels you’re there. And you see her in bed, her back against you. Sobbing on the pillow, like a helpless little child.
“What’s wrong, mom?”
She doesn’t even bother to lift her head. Then she says, “ I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m tired of living. I just want to die and get this over with.”
Usually, you would just shrug this off. Your mom has been a bit of a drama queen in the past. And it wasn’t that big of a deal.
But somehow, this hits different. It’s been happening too often, and this time it feels like she is serious.
You stand there, frozen. What do you say? What do you do?
Looks like it’s been lifted from a movie scene, right? The truth is, this happens more than you think.
Caregivers often hear seniors say they want to end their life. They’re miserable. They just want to die.
And it can be difficult to hear, especially if you’re the child taking care of the elderly parent.
It’s not easy to find the right words to say. But like every other challenge, the best way to solve it is to have a good understanding of its causes.
If you’re currently experiencing this, you can find comfort in knowing that there is help.
All you have to do is know where to look.
Most of the time, we think of teenagers and young adults when we talk about suicide.
But statistics show different. The National Council on Aging found out that the highest suicide rate in any age group comes from those who are 85 years and older.
And the majority of these numbers are male.
AAMFT also mentions that these numbers may not be accurate. 40% or more are considered “silent suicides” and are underreported.
The causes of death include overdosing, self-imposed starvation, accidents, and even dehydration.
Surprisingly, the highest contributing factor for these suicides is loneliness and isolation.
Most people in this age have suffered so much loss and trauma, which is the biggest driving force for taking their lives.
Even simple things, like giving up their driver’s license can trigger negative emotions in them. This may mean giving up independence or being stuck.
Mental and physical health issues like depression can have a huge impact on this decision.
Some seniors also cite lack of purpose and the loss of self-sufficiency as a heavy burden to bear.
Then there are those who suffer from financial burdens and high inflation rates.
Not to mention aches and pains, and side effects from medicine.
All of these things contribute to seniors wanting to end their life.
Aging is never easy. Losing yourself and your beloved ones can take a toll on anyone.
That’s why it’s all the more reason for us as caregivers and loved ones to keep an eye on our elders and give all the love and understanding they need while they’re still here.
Are your aging parents becoming more irrational as they grow older? Here’s how you can cope.
Signs of suicidal thoughts may not be as obvious at first.
And oddly enough, most elderly suicide victims live with relatives or are in contact with friends and family.
Despite all of these, late-life mood disorders and depression can still cause problems for the elderly.
So what signs should you look for to see if your loved one is at risk of attempting suicide?
Here are a few:
These may be subtle things they say and do. But it’s something you must pay attention to, especially if you’re worried they’ll take it seriously.
Take note of the times when they become teary-eyed or cry for no apparent reason.
Sleep pattern changes can also indicate internal struggles they’re having.
It will be heartbreaking, especially if you’re doing your best to keep them happy.
If they tell you that they want to end their lives, ask them why. Listen and be patient as they speak their mind.
Talk to them about what their feeling and don’t negate or deny it in any way.
And if they still persist in talking about death or taking their lives, seek professional help right away.
How can you help an elderly individual who wants to take their life?
Here are some things to do to make sure you’re addressing their emotions while also keeping your boundaries.
Check for firearms, sharp objects, chemicals, and other potential items that they can use to harm themselves.
It also helps to check for alcohol and other intoxicating substances inside the house and keep them away.
Lock cabinets with chemicals they can use. And keep sharp objects out of reach.
Take note of the things they start neglecting as soon as possible.
Check on their meals and how much fluids they take. Check medications and prescriptions if they’re taking the right amount.
Are they letting go of their personal hygiene? Encourage and remind them daily.
Encourage them to exercise or be more active and engaged with peers.
Persistent comments about wanting to die could signal a deeper problem.
So take note of your senior’s behaviors and how they respond.
It’s normal to feel sad or low at times, but if it’s getting more consistent, then it’s something to be worried about.
Negative emotions can be too much to bear for anyone, especially if it’s something you hear consistently.
It’s ok to take time to listen to what your elders are saying. But if it’s affecting you negatively, then it’s best to set boundaries for yourself too.
Set a specific time when you are ready to discuss these negative emotions. And if they go beyond the time limit, then give them a gentle reminder of your agreement.
Last but not least, make sure you’re getting professional help to address these thoughts.
Talk to your doctor and see if the situation needs therapy or medication.
Connect them with community leaders, church leaders, pastors, or anyone who can help comfort them.
You can also find support online. Here are some websites you can visit for further information:
Elderly suicide is a silent problem we all have to address.
It’s difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s something we can prevent.
If your elder is expressing thoughts of ending their lives, be more empathetic towards them.
And remember, it’s not on you.
That's all for today.
Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!