Depression is an issue in older adults that many people don’t realize. Becoming ornery, grumpy, and temperamental is not a normal part of aging. Unfortunately suicide can become a result of depression. This is something that is not commonly discussed and it’s becoming a more relevant problem in older adults. A younger adult committing suicide is discussed more and viewed as a more devastating loss than an older adult committing suicide. This problem needs to be looked at.
It’s a devastating loss when anyone dies, but someone who has their whole life ahead of them is equally as sad as someone who has given their hole life to the world and thinks that they don’t deserve to be here anymore. Modern society does not do enough to address suicide in older adults. Older adults are 12% of our population but make up 18% of suicide deaths. (Suicide in the Elderly) As the older adult population continues to grow, as it is the fastest growing population, we need to jump on board immediately to stop this issue dilemma.
One reason this issue is not being addressed is because social workers are not seeing a lot of this in their case load. Talking about this issue is a large part of prevention. Older adults are not always comfortable bringing up their emotions nd thoughts. If we help and start asking them questions when we notice a difference it can play a huge part in removing the idea of suicide. 70% of those who committed suicide visited their primary physician within one month of their death and there was no mental health diagnosis and do not seek treatment. Suicide in the Elderly) Older adults hold onto their last bits of independence so desperately that it can hurt them. An older relative may feel that if they reach out to us to get help with mental health that they may sacrifice parts of their independence such as going to appointments alone, living lone, and control of health information. Opening up may also put them into a lot of health services that they are not comfortable becoming a part of. Literature Review Many older adults become depressed as they continue to get older.
I have my own theory as to why this happens. I believe that after a certain point we begin to age alone. We cross this line in our life were we lose our work lives, we are applying for Medicare and a lot of older adults don’t have the resources they need, we may lose parts of our independence due to physical abilities, and our friends are passing away. A lot of this is scary and hard to cope with alone. When we are younger and age through puberty, college, early adulthood, we have our parents, teachers, and friends who are going through it with us and have done it before.
With older adults though, they don’t have a lot of resources that have gone through it before so they’ve lost their abundance of resources. One aspect of depression that I wanted to dive into was depression in long term care facilities. In one of my classes I had watched a video about how institutional long term care facilities can be. A lot of them don’t have a very welcoming appearance, also a lot of times when we think of a nursing home we view the ypical shared rooms, residents slumped over in a wheelchair in the hallway, or common area. There isn’t a lot that is contributed to make it a happy place.
In my psychology class my teacher had showed us a study on long term care residents who were given the ability to control certain aspects of their stay, such as, having a plant and the design of their room, residents who didn’t have that control had much higher death rates. With that being said, my first article l’m reviewing will discuss antidepressant use in long term care. The article covered why antidepressants aren’t productive in ong term care. One point covered the obvious fact that just because someone is experiencing sadness doesn’t mean depression is the problem, are there other health issues such as dementia?
If so, an antidepressant is not going to be the answer. Another topic that was touch on is social environments in long term care. They performed a study on which they integrated personal social activities by request, after six weeks the participants showed little to no depressive symptoms, sadly they went back to previous activities before the study and majority of residents had a relapse. I think this speaks volumes s to how we meet the needs of older adults, and clearly we aren’t doing a very good job with this.
This place becomes their home but we hardly provide an environment that meets their basic needs. (Rosen, 2014) Murder-suicide is a heartbreaking trend that is on the rise in older adults; from 2002-2011 it has had a 4% increase. Most often this is not a suicide pact; studies have found that men are performing these acts without their spouses being aware of any of it. The reason for husbands performing this behavior is because they feel that no one is capable of taking care of their wife and don’t want anyone else doing it.
As often as once every two weeks in the state of Florida a murder-suicide is performed, and across the country as many as 20 older adults (10 couples) are dying due to murder-suicide. A lot of these individuals are dealing with undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues. I can’t say if these individuals were treated if this would have stopped them, as I said most often this is not a suicide pact but, there has been a few cases were the couple had decided after a certain point that didn’t have joyful fulfilling lives ahead of them any longer.
Reese, 2013) I don’t think there will ever be a time where we see that this itual isn’t being performed. The husbands feel they are committing a commendable act for their wives by saving them from a caregiving situation that don’t want to be in, but they are not asking or talking to their wives about any of this. This is an issue where I feel that we need to meet them were they are. We need to be asking questions and more in tune to changes in older adults, are they suddenly behaving in a way we don’t recognize or saying things that are catching us off guard.
We won’t be able to stop this because if someone is going to do this it may be hard to intercept them, but we can try, try and reach ut, observe them and ask questions. The next article I want to discuss took me off guard when I found it, it was discussing if we should praise these husbands for their acts of “love”. It broke my heart to see that some of these men are being looked at as heroes committing an act of undying love. This article also provided a point of view that I hadn’t thought about, the wife’s voice.
These murder-suicides are acts committed by the husband and if a note is left it is from the husband. Although the wife may have been sick, did she really want her life to end? A point made at the end of the article rings rue, if we have compassion for the killer, why are we not having a deeper compassion and sympathy for the victim. A true heroic husband would seek help for himself and his partner. (Marquardt, 2012) Methodology For my research I had to rely on quantitative research.
Qualitative research was outside my bounds, I would had to interview someone who was planning on doing this and that’s not going to happen; one, someone isn’t going to admit they will be committing this act, and two, I would have to report them immediately. I looked at cases of these incidences and what they had in common. I also looked at depression in different nvironments. It’s also important to remember that depression is not a normal part of aging but it can be a symptom of illnesses that can be a result of aging such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Results My results surprised myself. I didn’t think that the husbands would be the partner committing the act. The husbands aren’t even including the wives, I thought that I would find a lot of these are decisions that they made together. Often times the wife is the caregiver of the family, I thought that would push them to commit the murder and suicide because they felt it was what’s best, in contrary husbands are doing it to their ill wives. I had myself under the impression that these were Romeo and Juliet situations; they would leave the world together.
It’s been proven time and time again after these are investigated that the wife had no idea this was going to happen to her. Most often these cases are also lacking care in the mental health aspects of their lives. Either there was no diagnosis or there wasn’t any treatment. Conclusion Mental health needs to be a more approachable topic. We’ve discussed time and time again in class that it has this horrible stigma. In older generations I also think there needs to be more awareness for physicians. I think a lot of our problems are from providers not fulling understanding the physical, mental, emotion, spiritual, process of aging.
We are handing out antidepressants to older adults who may not need them, what they need is a change in their environments and lives, and a correct diagnosis. A lot of illnesses that can come with age can have depressive like symptoms but that doesn’t mean that depression is the issue. If someone is becoming a victim to dementia it’s not hard to imagine why there are sad, they may be realizing that they aren’t as sharp as they once were, need more help, and have less independence. It’s important that those of us in the gerontology field keep advocating and keep pushing for them.
We need to give them back their voice, let them know it’s ok to experience these feelings and that it’s also ok to discuss, it does not make them a weaker person. These people have dedicated their lives to the world and don’t see themselves as anyone different than they were 40/50 years ago. The end of life brings so many beautiful times that we don’t get until we age, we have to remind our older adults of that, aging isn’t bad, aging is beautiful. “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes. ” (Frank Lloyd Wright)