Learning to identify elder patient profiles at greatest risk of suicide has been proven to save lives.
Dr Kaleem Arshad MD. Profound changes in the U.S. economy, culture, and perspectives on aging have led to an increased rate. Also alarming prevalence, of geriatric suicide. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those aged 65 and over currently represent approximately 15% of the population. By 2040, however, expectation are to increase to as much as 22%.
While no demographic group is immune to suicide, by understanding at-risk patient profiles, both doctors and caregivers are in a much better place to implement interventional strategies and save lives, according to M Kaleem Arshad, MD. “For example,” he explains, “suicide rates among men are four times higher than what becomes seen among women. In fact, male suicide deaths represent 79% of all U.S. suicides. With the worst affected group being men aged 75 and older.”
He continues, “Furthermore, suicide rates among the elderly are highest where an individual, either divorced or widowed, for example.”
Paradoxically, according to Dr Kaleem Arshad MD, numerous studies have also shown much. Some of the oldest Americans are also some of the happiest. “The University of Chicago recently found that 33% of Americans reported being ‘very happy’ at the age of 88. Only 24% of young adults reported the same,” he reveals.
“Unfortunately,” he continues, “many events commonly associated with getting older are known to increase the risk of depression, and thus suicidal tendencies.”
According to Dr Kaleem Arshad MD, these include managing chronic conditions and disabilities, handling social isolation, experiencing financial difficulties, facing mortality, coping with major life changes, and combinations of prescription medications which can cause imbalances in brain chemistry.
Dr. Arshad believes that intervention is vital. “Among older adults who die by suicide, approximately 77% visited a primary care provider within their last year of life. Also 58% also doing so within their last month of life,” he reveals.
Because of this, physicians, nurses, case workers, and other healthcare professionals are uniquely positioned to curb rates of suicide among the elderly and limit self-inflicted deaths, according to Dr Kaleem Arshad MD.
He goes on to highlight behaviors such as increasing use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious or agitated or behaving recklessly, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing from social settings, becoming isolated, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge and displaying extreme mood swings.
With this in mind, Dr Kaleem Arshad MD explains that prevention is key, adding, “While the rates of geriatric suicide are currently high, prevention programs can significantly reduce suicide among the elderly.”
He continues, “It’s important to consider the increased risk of depression and suicide for patients later in life. Clinicians can make a difference and help save lives by understanding the red flags for suicidal tendencies.”
“With early intervention,” adds Dr Kaleem Arshad MD wrapping up, “older patients at risk of committing suicide provides access to the help they need within inpatient and outpatient care facilities, potentially saving lives which may otherwise be lost to suicide among this demographic.”