SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 4, 2014

Elderly Suicides, a concern

(My Comments. . . and I seem to have a few,  for this post in particular will interject, in place as applicable, right along with the text — but in ‘blue’.  Seems better to me rather than having a bunch of abstract thoughts and stuck with trying to make sense of it all.  Sorry if this seems bothersome;  I just get off on tangents at times, especially when I see things differently.  Jan)

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Mental health

Suicide rate for elderly a concern

By Encarnacion Pyle THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

In study after study, Americans report being more satisfied in their golden years, suggesting that life gets better as you get older.     The Golden Years perhaps seem better and more satisfying because  one’s kids are grown and on their own;  the business has been built and career goals are no longer a problem.  Not everyone you’ve known and loved has died or moved on.  And your time seemingly is your own to choose, because, essentially,  one’s responsibilities have changed.  This of course would primarily apply to those who are financially able to live the good life they dreamed of.  Not all can have such choices.  Nor even a significantly high number since our middle class has slid more into poverty.   But changes that come later in life — retirement, loss of loved ones, medical problems and isolation, especially around the holidays  — can lead to depression in older adults, increasing their risk for suicide.

“It’s a silent killer for far too many of our elders,” said Carolyn Givens, executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.
In the U.S., people 65 or older make up 13 percent of the population but account for more than 18 percent of all suicides, according to the National Institutes of Health.

So far this year, 12 percent of the 133 suicides in Franklin County were people who were at least 65, according to statistics from the coroner’s office. The figure jumps to 21 percent when people 60 to 64 are included.

Experts say the statistics are especially alarming because the elderly make up the fastest-growing segment of the population. By 2030, there will be about 72 million people age 65 or older, more than twice the number in 2000.

The suicide rate is likely even higher because it can be difficult for coroners to recognize “silent suicides” such as intentional overdoses, self-starvation or deaths that look as if they could have been accidental. When the cause of death is unclear, officials might be inclined to call it something other than suicide because of the pain it might cause the family.

“There’s still a lot of stigma associated with suicide,” said Diana Kubovcik, client-services director of the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging.
While older people make fewer suicide attempts than the young, they are far more likely to die because of often-frail health, Kubovcik said. They also turn more frequently to guns.

Double suicides involving spouses or partners also occur more commonly among the elderly, she said.

White men older than 85 are especially vulnerable and have the highest suicide rate — nearly six times that of the general population. But they’re seldom included in the national conversation about awareness and prevention, said Amy Fiske, an associate clinical-psychology professor at West Virginia University.  Although many people might think suicide is an understandable reaction to growing older, “late life is not miserable for most people,” she said.

In general, older adults are less likely to suffer from mental illness than their younger counterparts and more likely to report higher levels of well-being and satisfaction, Fiske said. Physical health generally declines with age, but the vast majority of older adults do not become suicidal when that happens , she said. Research shows that many who commit suicide don’t have terminal or painful conditions.  The most prominent risk factor for suicide in older adults is depression, said Debra Reilly, a senior-care liaison at Dublin Springs, a 72-bed mental-health and addiction-treatment center in Dublin. Alcohol or drug abuse also can be factors.
“People sometimes assume that depression is a normal part of aging, but that’s untrue,” said Reilly, who also is a psychiatric nurse. “The good news is depression is treatable.”     Many older adults don’t seek treatment for mental-health problems, leaving it up to family and friends to step in, Reilly said.    So the doctor is saying that depression is treatable,  indeed it is if the  diet has suffered for one reason or another and is inadequate.  SAD diet can’t sustain health. . one needs wholesome, fresh, not manufactured foodstuff and plenty of the necessary vitamins and minerals generally well-endowed in whole foods. The B vitamins are an absolute must.  What is not needed is more chemicals for an under-performing organism whether it is physiological or emotional.  There isn’t a happy pill on the planet which can help or replace what is missing – someone who cares enough to be there or at least try to work it out.

Though depression ranks in some psycho-medical classification, I personally have a problem with that.  What seniors who have been perhaps family-oriented their whole life and surrounded by loved ones who meant everything to them to the extent of serving everyone else’s need over their own can be dealing with is simple economics and inequity over which they no longer have the power or influence to manage or change.  No one wants to hear about it  . . how can they when the loved ones  aren’t even around.   This kind of life-style is commonplace no matter what label [and there are many,] one chooses to put on it.  

If the senior has no locomotion, he or she needs help;  if they are too frail to do the chores or climb the stairs  or make the big decisions — they need help!  If there is NO ONE  to talk to, they need help  — or maybe they’d be better off if we just shot them. . .isolation can drive anyone crazy.  I’ve seen this sort of thing over and over again throughout the years and it is heartbreaking.  So, to me, it is not ‘depression’ which is only a descriptive word for what we see going on, loneliness  and abandonment, lack of someone to care.

Seniors exhibiting signs of depression should undergo a thorough medical examination to make sure the symptoms aren’t being caused by a physical condition or medication. Warning signs include loss of interest in things or activities usually found enjoyable; cutting back on social interactions; expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness; or having a preoccupation with death.

Changes in sleep or appetite or other unusual behavior such as stockpiling of medications can also be signs.

Often, suicide coincides with a doctor visit — 20 percent on the same day, 40 percent within a week, 70 percent within a month — so physicians need to look for warning signs, Reilly said.

Suicide triggers can include the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, severe or chronic pain, or a loss of physical or financial independence, said Mary Brennen-Hofmann, suicide-prevention coordinator at North Central Mental Health Services, which operates the local suicide-prevention hotline.

“A sense of purpose and dignity in life is significant,” she said. “If you feel like you’re taking up space and have nothing to offer, those feelings can be painful.”

Treatment for depression could include cognitive therapy and medications. Sometimes, simply talking can be a good start, Brennen-Hofmann said.

“The holidays offer a perfect time to help seniors to reconnect with their family and friends, their faith and their world of social activities,” she said. “Help remind them that they have value.”

If you or someone you know needs emotional help, resources are available, including the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, a 24-hour local suicide hotline at 614-221-5445 and a senior hotline at 614-294-3309. epyle@dispatch.com

@EncarnitaPyle

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