Did you know that the elderly, especially those age 85 and older have the second highest rate of suicide? As we age, the mental processes slow down, physical strength decreases, chronic pain becomes a new companion, friends and family members die, and the elderly mourn the life they no longer have. So how can we encourage the elderly to seek help? And how can we even recognize when someone is at risk of suicide?
First, we should know the signs of depression, a leading cause of suicide. These signs include:
- Negative attitude.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Refusing to eat.
- Lack of concentration and difficulty making decisions.
- Headaches and backaches.
- Sense of hopelessness.
- Negative outlook for the future.
Most often depression is brought on by the diagnosis of a chronic progressive disease or the death of a loved one, like a spouse. Before you can help someone you need to try and understand how he or she feels. Imagine how different their life has become and how hard accepting this new life will be. If he or she was independent and now needs home assistance because of a recent death or new diagnosis then they are very likely to feel depressed and perhaps suicidal.
The good news is that Medicare and Medicaid pay for psychological counseling, so he or she doesn’t have to suffer alone. But if the senior doesn’t have insurance or the money to pay for counseling then the best thing you can do is to reach out and listen to him or her. Train your caregivers on positive things to say and warning signs to watch out for.
Even though you cannot give a diagnosis or treatment you can ask questions and listen carefully. Letting them know they are not alone and someone cares for them can really make a difference. With a little help you can guide them to a place of peace during challenging times.