September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Older adults make up 12% of the US population, but account for 18% of all suicide deaths. This is an alarming statistic, as the elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population, making the issue of later-life suicide a major public health priority.
A person who may be thinking about suicide likely does not want to die, but is in search of some way to make pain or suffering go away. Older people who attempt suicide are often more isolated, more likely to have a plan, and more determined than younger adults. Suicide attempts are more likely to end in death for older adults than younger adults, especially when attempted by men. But suicide is 100% preventable. Get to know the warning sides that an older adult is suicidal.
Suicidal thoughts in older adults may be linked to several important risk factors and warning signs. These include, among others:
- Prior suicide attempts
- Marked feelings of hopelessness; lack of interest in future plans
- Feelings of loss of independence or sense of purpose
- Medical conditions that significantly limit functioning or life expectancy
- Impulsivity due to cognitive impairment
- Social isolation
- Family discord or losses (i.e. recent death of a loved one)
- Inflexible personality or marked difficulty adapting to change
- Access to lethal means (i.e. firearms, other weapons, etc)
- Daring or risk-taking behavior
- Sudden personality changes
- Alcohol or medication misuse or abuse
- Verbal suicide threats such as, “You’d be better off without me” or “Maybe I won’t be around”
- Giving away prized possessions
It is crucial that friends and family of older adults identify signs of suicidal thoughts and take appropriate follow- up actions to prevent them from acting on these thoughts. Suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of depression and should always be taken seriously.
If you or someone you know is experiencing passive or active suicidal thoughts, or has described a plan with intent to act, it is essential that you intervene and get help from a mental health professional immediately. A timely and appropriate intervention can prevent suicide, and addressing issues sooner rather than later often results in better treatment outcomes.
This blog is a tribute to David Soto. He retired on June 30, 2017, after 43 years of service to AAA4. Dave is a wonderfully positive individual. He is steady and “goes with the flow”. I will miss his vast historical knowledge about this agency. When I had a question about “why do we do it this way?” Dave would provide me with the entire backstory.
I saw Dave as our ambassador. Whether attending a SACOG meeting in Sacramento or visiting a congregate meal site in Loyalton, he was an excellent representative of AAA4. He speaks well and is the ultimate diplomat. He is also kind and that comes across in his interactions with people in the community.
Dave was a young man when he started at AAA4. He had just earned his Master’s Degree in Psychology. He joked about staying long enough to be eligible for our services. He worked tirelessly to serve older adults and his time with AAA4 truly made a difference. Happy golfing, Dave!
Aging and Adult Resource Connections (ADRC) are springing up throughout our 7 county region. An ADRC is a “no wrong door” approach to addressing the frustrations many consumers and their families experience when they need to obtain information and access to long term services and supports (LTSS). Typically, the core partners are the Area Agency on Aging and the Independent Living Center, bringing the aging and disabilities communities together. ADRC programs raise the visibility about the full range of public and private LTSS programs available, provide objective information, options counseling, information & assistance, and ensure people are able to make informed decisions about LTSS. Even though the ADRCs in this region are not brick and mortar, they bring enhanced collaboration and improved service coordination and deliver.
The Nevada County ADRC was the first to serve a rural area in California. It is a collaboration between Agency on Aging – Area 4 (AAA4) and FREED (the local Independent Living Center). In Yolo County, AAA4 is partnering with Resources for Independent Living and the Yolo County Healthy Aging Alliance to form a new ADRC that has received an “emerging” status by the California Department of Aging.
I recognize a need to expand the ADRC even farther. AAA4 and FREED are exploring the possibility of expanding our partnership into Yuba and Sutter Counties. AAA4 and Resources for Independent Living have just begun discussions about partnering in Sacramento County. It is my hope to have ADRCs throughout our 7 county region in the near future.
On July 29, 2015 the Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) of Nevada County put on An Aging and Disability Resource Conference in Grass Valley. The core partners of that ADRC are Agency on Aging – Area 4 and FREED. The ADRC “No Wrong Door” approach connects individuals with long-term services and supports (LTSS) and safety-net services through coordination and collaboration with local partners. In 2014, the ADRC of Nevada County was the first rural ADRC to receive official ADRC state designation.
The conference celebrated three significant anniversaries. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, two landmark laws providing equality and comprehensive services for people with disabilities and older adults. This is also FREED’s 30th year of providing services for people with disabilities in Nevada County.
The conference featured speakers and break-out workshop sessions for people with disabilities, youth with disabilities, seniors, caregivers, family members, and local service providers. Workshops included information on local resources, rural managed care, benefits and employment, care coordination under the new Medicaid Rule, assistive technology, transportation travel training, aging in place, how to develop advance health directives, and more. The conference had well over 100 people in attendance. I hope it will become an annual event.