The recent suicide of Robin Williams at age 63 shocked his many fans
but it does calls attention to an alarming trend toward suicide in older
In fact, it’s estimated that up to 20 percent of suicides
in this country are committed by seniors, with the highest success rate
belonging to older white men.
Senior suicides can happen for a
number of reasons, the chief among them being depression which, it’s
estimated afflicts about one-fourth of all U.S. seniors.
of the stigma that has long been associated with mental illness, seniors
tend not to express their depression the way a younger person might, so
it’s important to be on the lookout for warning signs. According to the
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), these include:
-Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
-Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
-Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
-Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
-Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
-Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
-Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
-Appetite and/or weight changes
-Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
-Persistent physical symptoms
sense of isolation or bereavement can increase their overall feelings
of despair. If your senior is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s
important to have them see a doctor for a complete physical to determine
whether the cause of their symptoms a chemical imbalance or a physical
ailment, bearing in mind that the following are some physical conditions
that can contribute to symptoms of depression:
-Some viral infections
medications, including those taken for blood pressure and arthritis, as
well as certain hormones and steroids may also cause symptoms of
Regardless of the cause of your senior’s depression,
it is important to see that they get medical attention right away. Every
case of depression is different, so it may be important to try out
different therapies until you hit upon one that works. After that, you
should continue to monitor closely to ensure that it continues to be
effective and that your senior is keeping up with it.
concerned that your senior is contemplating suicide, contact their
health care provider or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
For more information about the well-being of
seniors, please contact Home Instead Senior Care of Central Oregon
Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.
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