My 89-year old mother has been on dialysis for 10 years…that’s a long time! Every once in awhile, she gets depressed and talks about not going any more. That would be the end for her, and she knows it. Luckily, she doesn’t stay sad too long, but thousands of seniors do each year, leading to suicide rates that are higher than in the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide prevention therefore is a key support strategy for this age group.
More Common Than You Think
Depression affects about 6 million Americans aged 65 and older. But sadly, only 10% receive treatment. Depression is not easily recognized among the elderly, as it’s often confused with other diseases. The National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in seniors to be a major public health problem. Depression often leads to suicide in this age group. The suicide rate for folks aged 80 – 84 is twice the general population.
Signs and Risk Factors
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are several signs to watch for in older adults that might lead to thoughts of suicide:
• Talking about feeling hopeless and alone
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
• Talking about living in unbearable pain
Factors that increase the risk of depression in the elderly include:
• Being single, unmarried, divorced, or widowed
• Lack of a supportive social network
• Stressful life events
• Recent loss of a loved one
• Living alone, social isolation
• Presence of chronic or severe pain
How You Can Help
Stay in frequent contact with the older adults in your life. Get to know their moods so you can recognize when they start to look or feel depressed. Help them find meaningful activities in their lives, connect them with volunteer opportunities, take them out in the fresh air for a walk.
There are dozens of resources available to help treat depression and suicide prevention in the elder population. SAMHSA has excellent resources and tools; many are for health
professionals but contain valuable information for family members. Other resources include:
1. National Institute on Aging (information on depression)
2. Administration on Aging
3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK)
NOTE: Exercise has been shown to decrease depression and improve mood. Let me help you or a parent/grandparent increase their physical and mental wellbeing with fitness training. If you want to speak with me in an unbiased format, take advantage of my FREE CALL. I promise to give you a few tips and things to look at immediately, plus we can discuss if any of my programs or classes are a good fit.
If you’d like to schedule that call with me, just CLICK THIS LINK, and let me know in the message that you would like a 1-on-1 call with me right away and I will be in touch to schedule that – oh, and leave me your phone number in there too since email is not as reliable as it used to be! Thanks.