September 2019, Volume 33
Suicide and the Elderly
Suicide by older adults is more common than we think.
Every suicide is a tragedy, and to some degree a mystery. Suicide often stems from a deep feeling of hopelessness. The inability to see solutions to problems or to cope with challenging life circumstances may lead people to see taking their own lives as the only solution to what is really a temporary situation. Most survivors of suicide attempts go on to live full, rewarding lives. (Psychology Today).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control show that the highest suicide rate in America is among people ages 45 to 64. There were more than 232,000 recognized suicides in this age group between 1999 and 2016. Older adults accounted for more than 18.2% of suicide deaths in 2016, and the suicide rate among males 75 years of age and older is nearly double the rate of any other age group.
Recognizing when someone may be at risk
There are several risk factors that we need to be aware of to help people at risk. Depression is one of the top risk factors, especially if left untreated. Other risk factors include, but are not limited to:
If you are aware of someone who is at immediate risk, do not leave the person alone. If it is possible to do so without getting hurt, remove any lethal means the person is looking to use. If the person is in immediate danger of hurting himself or herself, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
- Prior suicide attempts
- Feelings of hopelessness, of being trapped, or of having no reason to live
- Social isolation or withdrawing from others
- Medical conditions that limit functioning, cause pain, or cause a decrease in life expectancy
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
Preventing and reducing the risk factors is key. It is very important to have a depression screening completed by the physician or a qualified mental health professional. Along with the screening, there are ways to help improve self-worth and improve resilience. Here are some examples of ways to begin the process:
- Focus on and enhance the abilities and independent functioning capabilities
- Address social isolation and provide social opportunities
- Reassure the person that their existence is meaningful and appreciated
- Foster the emotional well-being of the person by creating a safe environment
- Promote communication, respect, engagement, and a sense of belonging
Taking Care of Emotional and Physical Health
Invite the older adult to participate in activities and programs that offer a sense of purpose and meaning. It is best to offer a variety of activities that help to build self-esteem, social skills, spirituality, physical abilities, and the skills needed to cope and adapt to change. There are several ways to improve the quality of life for an older adult and to improve his or her physical and emotional health.
- Get a complete physical that includes a depression screening
- Treat any medical needs - physical or mental
- Look at the living environment: is it friendly and safe for the person
- Help the person feel useful and needed
- Encourage regularly physical activity as tolerated
- Keep the person mentally active
- Help the person stay connected socially to family, friends, and their community
- Help ensure that the person has proper nutrition and hydration
- Help ensure that the person gets enough sleep and is well-rested
Activities to help promote emotional and physical well-being are limitless. Find out what the person enjoys, listen to their stories and ask questions. Let them feel needed, for example, by having them help with meal preparation, or with folding laundry. Suggest that volunteering or joining a hobby group as a way to help increase socialization.
This article is intended to bring awareness to suicide by older adults. If you know of anyone who may be thinking about, talking about, or planning suicide, take action by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.
Older American Behavior Health Issue Brief 4: Preventing Suicide in Older Adults, available at
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, www.samhsa.gov
Suicide Prevention Resource Center www.sprc.org
5 Ways to Improve the Quality of Life for Seniors, available at Daily Caring, www.dailycaring.com
SEPTEMBER ACTIVITY TIP
September 17 is National Apple Dumpling Day!
Easy Country Apple Dumplings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
These Easy Country Apple Dumplings are soft and gooey on the bottom, but crispy on top, and they taste like apple pie. They are so easy to make and ridiculously good - and the house smells amazing while they bake!
Calories: 297 kcal
- 2 small apples, peeled and cored
- 8-ounce tube refrigerated Pillsbury crescent roll dough
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 cup Sprite soda
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8 x 8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Cut each apple into four wedges.
- Separate the crescent dough into 8 triangles.
- Place an apple wedge near the small end of the dough triangle, then roll up. Pinch the ends to seal. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
- In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Add in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon; stir until combined and smooth.
- Drizzle butter mixture over the dough.
- Pour the Sprite to the sides of the dumplings (not on top) so a nice crust is formed while baking.
- Bake until golden brown and the apples are tender when when pierced with a fork - 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes.
- Serve for breakfast or make it a dessert with some vanilla ice cream.
- Any kind of apple works for this recipe. Use your favorite!
- 7-Up, Mountain Dew, or ginger beer can be used instead of Sprite. But do not eliminate this ingredient. You need the carbonation for these to turn out right.
Reference: Belly Full, food, family fun: www.bellyfull.net
Puffy Paint Window Clings
- Fabric puffy paint
- Wax paper
- Line drawings to trace
- Choose the line drawing that you want to make into window clings.
- Draw the picture or choose one from clip art. Drawing over the outline with a black marker will help make the image stand out under the wax paper.
- Place a piece of wax paper over the image. You can hold the wax paper in place with one hand while tracing it with the other or place a piece of puffy tape on the wax paper to hold it in place.
- To make the cling, start piping the puffy fabric paint onto the wax paper following the drawing. Make sure to touch/connect all ends. When changing colors make sure both colors touch. This keeps the cling in one piece when it is removed from the wax paper. Make sure the line are thick and solid; if there are thin spots add more paint or the cling will rip when removed from the wax paper.
- Let the puffy fabric paint dry for 24 hours. It must be completely dry before trying to remove it from the wax paper. If removed too soon, the cling can stretch and rip.
- To remove the wax paper, gently lift one of the corners of the design and pull the cling with one hand and the wax paper away with the other. To stick the cling to the window, place the shiny side to the window. The side that was attached to the wax paper should be facing you.
Reference: Think Crafts - http://thinkcrafts.com