Spotting Suicidal Signs in Ourselves and Our Elderly
By Jean Donahue
died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war.
He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is
real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies
and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and his
strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him.”
Someone Takes His Own Life
column is about those powerful adversaries that steal a person's energy
and endurance. I am sure you can recognize this circumstance, but I don't
want these adversaries to overwhelm and defeat you or your loved one. You
are much too important to let that happen. Your loved one is too important
for that to happen.
am talking about suicide. This insidious “adversary” may be considered
by you or your elderly loved one because of what may be thought of as an
intolerable situation. It may seem like there's no way out – but there
IS help! That's my message today.
balancing caregiving duties and the rest of life's demands have
overwhelmed you and led you to consider suicide, you are not crazy. If
your aging and perhaps frail mother or father or spouse has considered
suicide, they are not crazy. Most of the time, suicidal thoughts seep into
our minds because we are depressed. The medical field has learned a lot
about the human mind, and they have developed some excellent medications
to help with depression. Ask your doctor about them and get the medicine
you or your loved one need. Medication won't change your day-to-day
situation, but that's what we need to consider next. Help is needed there
many elderly feel depression is a normal state. Well, it isn't. Depression
is a disease. It may result as easily from an injury or even a stroke as
anything else. Stress, for caregivers, is also a big cause. In fact,
nearly 60% of all caregivers have reported that they are being treated for
depression. That's a lot of us already. But that's the key: whether an
aging American or a family caregiver – this condition can be
successfully treated by professionals. If untreated, it may lead to
a caregiver, you must find someone to give you a break so you can do
something you enjoy. It's called respite care. You need it. Somehow you
need to find a way to live your own life while taking care of your loved
one. Find an interest. I learned how to do a lot of creative things on the
computer while I was taking care of Mom and Dad. Find something you can
enjoy. Your loved one needs you very badly, and if you take a break, you
will do a better job of taking care of them. You'll also be less likely to
become depressed or, worse, consider suicide.
now about what you can do to improve your loved one's outlook. Can you
take them on rides? What about going out to eat? Can you read to them?
What other ways can you find to make their life happier?
you determine that your loved one is considering suicide, you must find
out exactly how prepared they are to follow through. Don't be afraid to
talk about it. Find out if your loved one is suicidal, how they plan to
commit suicide, whether they have what they need to do it, and whether
they have a time set when they plan to commit suicide.
for help. If you don't have the answers to these questions and feel there
is a real problem, don't wait until you have all the pieces put together.
Call now. Don't wait. Call toll free 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). This
is the ImAlive website. They want to help.
try to handle things yourself. Get professional or experienced help from
someone who understands suicide. I called them when I received an email
from a caregiver who was suicidal, and they were tremendously helpful to
me and the caregiver.
of the common signs of suicide are listed below, but a suicidal person
does not need to exhibit all of them to be at risk. Look for even one or
two of these:
Losses, of friends and family who die, or financial losses
Verbalizing that they are going to commit suicide
Loss of interest in things they usually enjoy
Not interacting with others
Not taking care of themselves
No longer taking necessary medication
Feeling things are hopeless or that they are worthless
Stockpiling medications or other things that could be used for suicide
Suddenly putting their affairs in order, changing wills, giving things
Saying goodbye to those close to them, or canceling appointments
Loss of their normal energy
that anything else that you feel is unusual for them that might be a sign
of depression. If you have a hunch something is wrong, get help right