Suicide and Seniors: What You Need to Know

It’s important for health professionals to not only be aware of the general warning signs that indicate a patient is at risk for depression and suicide, but also to understand the unique aspects associated with treating an aging population. 

With the right tools and resources, care providers are well positioned to make a positive impact in the lives of their patients. Among people who die by suicide, approximately 77 percent see a primary care provider within their last year of life and 58 percent within their last month of life, according to research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Because the elderly high-risk group frequently comes in contact with clinical environments during this sensitive window of time, providers are uniquely positioned to curb rates of suicide among the elderly and limit self-inflicted deaths.

One of the most powerful tools available to physicians, case workers and other clinical staff is the act of listening and observing. Patients with depression and suicidal tendencies often leave clues during the weeks and months before ending their life.

In addition to picking up on verbal clues, the following behaviors can be indicators of possible suicidal tendencies:

  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from social settings or becoming isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

Strategies you can implement

While there is no silver bullet to accurately diagnose 100 percent of elderly patients at risk of depression-related suicide, there are proven strategies caregivers can implement to pinpoint and intervene on behalf of at-risk patients.

  • Therapy: Talking with a mental health clinician to develop coping skills
  • Mood stabilizers: Designed to even out highs and lows
  • Antidepressants: Designed to alleviate the symptoms of depression
  • Antipsychotics: Designed to treat symptoms of mania, hallucinations and racing thoughts

Prevention is key.

At Oceans, we are committed to early intervention strategies to find older patients the help they need. Though the rates of geriatric suicide are currently high, prevention programs that utilize depression screening combined with health education can significantly reduce suicide among the elderly.

To learn more about Oceans geriatric care and how we can help, download the Elder Suicide Flyer.

 

FIND MORE MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES HERE

 

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