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How to Recognize the Risks of Elderly Suicide

suicide in older adults

With so many recent suicides making the headlines, we know that you’re concerned about the people you love.

Even if someone seems fine, and even if they don’t have a previous history of mental health issues, the truth is that it can be harder to recognize the signs of adults suicide.

This is especially challenging if you’re trying to recognize the signals of a potential suicide in older adults.

If the elder in your life has dementia, mobility issues, or any sort of health problem, the risk of suicide in elderly people may be even higher. They can often be afraid of becoming a burden to the people that they love the most — even if you never feel that way about them.

Keep on reading to understand the potential signs of suicide in the elderly.

1. Increased Isolation

Has it been a while since the elder in your life returned a phone call or a text back? Have they not been reaching out to you and your other family members as frequently as they usually do?

Perhaps they’re even refusing visits from you, or you’ve heard from other friends and neighbors (or even caretakers) that they aren’t out and about as much as they used to be.

Has the person you’re concerned about had a serious and sudden change in their sleeping habits? Have they stopped taking their medication or going to treatment because they don’t think it’s “worth it?”

While this could all certainly be a sign of physical illness, it may also indicate a mental health issue.

Be aware that sometimes, showing up unannounced can be confusing and even triggering for the elderly — especially if they’re suffering from memory issues.

Instead, we suggest reaching out to them and asking if there’s anything that they need. Call and speak with them on the phone if you can, and express the fact that you’ve noticed their withdrawal and that you’re concerned.

You could send them a meal, flowers, or invite them to an upcoming event.

If you still notice them withdrawing, make a plan with them to see them at their homes. You may want to bring some of their friends and other family members along with you.

Sometimes, a gentle reminder that so many people care about an elder is an excellent way to prevent suicide in older adults.

2. An Obsession With the Suicides of Others

Another unfortunate reality about adult suicide?

Often times, those who are already struggling with mental health issues will become more likely to commit a “copycat suicide.”

Whether a family friend, a patient at a facility where they’re staying or even a beloved celebrity has taken their own life, those who have experienced suicidal ideation are more likely to act.

Have you noticed that the elder in your life can’t seem to stop talking or reading about a recent suicide? Have they talked to you about the methods they “might” use to take their own life?

Do they seem overly sympathetic, or even defensive, of those who have committed suicide?

If so, then you need to act quickly. Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional as soon as you can.

Also, be certain that, if you’re not able to remain with the elder as often as you’d like, they have access to suicide prevention lifelines and chats.

Alert others close to them as well, and tell them to contact you or even the police if they notice a rise in these potential signs of older adult suicide.

3. Their Conversation and Attitude Changes

Sometimes, the potential signs of elderly suicidal thinking make themselves a bit more obvious.

The problem here is that many people fail to take these signs as seriously as they really ought to. This failure to act, to ask, and to encourage a loved one to seek help can have devastating consequences.

Does the elder in your life often talk about how they feel worthless, and as though their life isn’t worth living?

Do they often talk about how much better off everyone would be without them?

Do they actually express a desire to die, and do they directly talk about taking their own life?

The hard truth is that the elder isn’t “being dramatic” or “doing this to get attention.” Especially if they know their medical care is costing you money, time off from work, or if it’s causing you stress.

The chances are that they are very serious about attempting suicide.

They may even lash out at you or show signs of fairly extreme mood swings.

The most important thing that you can do — and it will be hard — is to listen to what your gut is telling you. When someone makes these kinds of threats, it’s up to you to take them seriously.

Stopping Suicide in Older Adults

We know that this post has likely been difficult to read, especially if you’re in the process of caring for aging parents and older adults.

But even making yourself aware of the signs of suicide in older adults — and knowing where to go for help — can make a difference.

In some cases, it may end up saving a life.

If you feel that your parents’ care is beyond your ability level, we want to be able to help you.

Spend some time on our website to learn more about our services, and rest easier knowing that your loved one is in good hands.