Startling Statistics Concerning Suicide among Elderly Men

Studies have shown a startling trend in the increase of suicides among older adults, which has brought the subject of elderly mental health into the spotlight. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health show that suicide among older adults is more common than most realize and more disproportionate to suicides committed by any other age group.

Depression among elderly men may go unnoticed.

Photo credit: ultra-team on Stock.xchng

Adults over the age of 65 represent only 12% of the people in the United States, but they represent 16 – 25 percent of all suicides that occur in this country. What is surprising is that four out of five suicides are committed by elderly men. The numbers increase drastically for white men over the age of 85 to 50 occurrences out of 100,000 men.

No Previous Warning

What is even more disturbing is the majority of elderly suicide victims gave no indication that they were considering suicide and had no outward signs of depression. Many had been seen by their doctors in the month and even days before their deaths. Even though practitioners are trained to recognize symptoms of depression, which can be crucial in preventing suicides, often there are no signs exhibited by their patients.

Concern for Elderly Men

While depression plays a large part in many of these cases, other elderly health issues can increase feelings of hopelessness and not having anything left to live for. Social isolation can increase these feelings also. This is the case for many elderly men who tend to become more socially isolated than women do. The risk increases for elderly widowers because their wives managed many of their social connections. Once their wives has passed, these social connections may be greatly reduced or totally cease.

Elderly men may also find themselves losing a sense of purpose because they were poorly prepared for retirement and now do not know what to do with themselves. This is especially true if they have never developed interests or hobbies outside of work. The added stress of being alone may become too much to bear and they feel they would be better off dead.

Risks and Signs to Watch For

As with so many elderly health concerns, if an older man finds himself facing the prospect of going through a major health crisis such as cancer alone, this can become overwhelming. This is one major risk in which to be aware. Returning home after a stay in the hospital can be a trying time for many and can increase the risk of suicide.

One signal that may suggest depression is taking hold of one’s life may be drastic weight loss. This is often because they have stopped eating as their will to live fades. They may also stop taking their medications and sleep more often. They may also appear very sad and say such things about being a burden on others, and how their family would be better off if they were gone. This is not a normal stage of aging; this is a sign that help is needed, and now.

What Can You Do?

The key to helping to prevent depression and suicide among the elderly is to help them remain socially active and involved in activities. These activities could be of any type whether joining a senior center or a book club. Getting the person involved in volunteering for their church or local school or museum will give them a sense of they are making a contribution and have a purpose.

If you suspect that an elderly person you know is exhibiting signs of depression, take steps to stop them from becoming a statistic. Help find mental health services geared toward the elderly for them immediately. If you feel that they are in immediate danger, contact your local hospital for an immediate referral.

Image by ultra-team on Stock.xchng


Announcing “How the 2012 Presidential Election Will Impact Seniors” Infographic

We’ve just released our latest infographic, “How the 2012 Presidential Election Will Impact Seniors.” The infographic takes a look at some of the most common issues facing seniors in the upcoming 2012 presidential election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Our goal with this new infographic is to help seniors better understand their options by conveying essential, need-to-know facts; debunking myths; and breaking down the candidates stances on important issues that will directly affect the personal lifestyles, health and well-being of senior citizens, the elderly and Baby Boomers in America.

Here’s a sneak peak at the infographic:

how 2012 election affects senior citizens and baby boomers infographic

To see the entire infographic, go to: How the 2012 Presidential Election Will Impact Seniors [Infographic]

We encourage you to share the infographic with others. You can also add it to your own website with the handy code embed at the end of the full version of the graphic.

Nursing Shortage: What the Future Holds for Nursing Homes

The nursing shortage in the United States adds to the growing problem of how to provide appropriate care for senior citizens who need nursing home services. Nursing homes have lost funding in recent years; in addition, more and more senior citizens are in need of nursing home services. Thus, experts predict that by the year 2050, there will be 18,000 more seniors who need nursing home care than there will be beds to house them. There are several factors that contribute to the nursing home shortage; if the economy improves, some of these problems may resolve themselves, but something still needs to be done.

Decline in Construction of New Homes
Many nursing homes were built with federal dollars during the 1960s. But now that these homes are getting older, sometimes they have to be closed. The federal government has cut funding to construct nursing homes or to maintain existing ones. This means that many nursing homes are closing and new ones aren’t being built.

Housing Market Collapse
The housing market collapse has also affected nursing home care. In the past, senior citizens or their families often sold their homes in order to pay for nursing home care. However, due to the housing market collapse, it’s becoming more difficult for senior citizens to sell their homes. Their homes may not be worth as much as they were when they bought them; in addition, people are not buying houses as much as they used to. Thus, more seniors are finding themselves without a source of funding and having to depend on Medicare and Medicaid.

Cuts in Reimbursement
Since most seniors rely on Medicare and Medicaid to help them pay for nursing home care, cuts in these programs significantly affect how many people can afford nursing care. In 2011, the federal government cut reimbursement to nursing homes from Medicare by 11 percent. Nursing homes tend to lose money on Medicaid patients, as Medicaid doesn’t pay for the entire cost of the patient’s treatment. However, it is illegal for Medicaid certified homes to turn any patient away who is on Medicaid and/or no longer has enough financial resources to pay for care. As a result, nursing homes don’t have the money they need to keep themselves open and provide appropriate care to all patients.

The main consequence of these problems is that many nursing homes have had to cut staff, and more cuts are expected in the future. Nursing homes simply cannot afford to pay for all of the staff they need to stay open because of lack of funding and their patients’ inability to pay for nursing home care themselves. As a result, nursing homes tend to be understaffed, and this problem is going to get worse over time.

While nursing homes are struggling to admit patients and care for them properly, the number of patients that need nursing home care services is steadily increasing. People are living longer–it’s not uncommon for people to live into their 90s or even reach 100 years of age–and the baby boom generation is reaching retirement age. According to MSN Money, by 2030, 20 percent of the US population will be over 65, and the number of 85-year-olds and 100-year-olds will double or triple. Many of these people will need nursing care services.

Nursing homes will need more funding in order to keep up with these changes in demographics. If funding continues to decline, there will be less nursing homes available to take care of the number of patients needing nursing care services, and those homes that are open will not be able to hire enough staff to take care of the patients.


Seniors in Assisted Living Facilities Could Be Evicted when Funds Dry Up

Budget talks are consuming. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or where you live, financial uncertainty will affect you one way or another, this includes patients in assisted living facilities.

As states prepare for the 2012 fiscal year to begin, many have made budgetary changes to their Medicaid program.  Some of which include cuts to assisted living facilities.  These cuts may create a wave of low-income, frail senior citizens looking for new places to call home.


Medicaid may not be enough

According to Senior Housing News many Medicaid-certified assisted living facilities are allowing only the bare minimum of Medicaid residents to reside in their facility.  This becomes a critical issue when private funds for care have been exhausted and a person needs to rely on Medicaid to help supplement the cost of care. Many assisted living facilities are refusing to allow residents converting from private pay to medical assistance and forcing them to move.  Why is this occurring, Eric Carlson, from the National Senior Citizen’s Law Center reported to Alyssa Gerace in her July 2011 article, “Assisted Living Residents Face Challenges When Transitioning from Private Pay to Medicaid”  that Medicaid reimbursement is less lucrative than private pay.  Many facilities would rather keep open beds available for private pay opportunities.

Can assisted living facilities do this? The short answer: Maybe.  For residents residing in non-Medicaid certified facilities they can refuse to accept medical assistance as a supplemental form of payment.  In these facilities, administration can dictate that lack of resources is an acceptable reason for discharge. However, for those residing in Medicaid-certified facilities, residents may have a case for staying where they are. ““The facility would need to force the person out, and the argument from the facility’s side is only that they’re not getting paid,” says Carlson. “The resident would have a very strong defense: ‘They’re just not taking the money I’m offering to them.’”

Don’t wait, Act now

So, what can you do if you or your loved one is running out funds?  Don’t wait until the balance reaches zero. Speak with the facility administrator now about what options are available to you. You may find that they are accepting of your financial situation. They may provide you with alternative methods to help pay for care, such as the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Benefits. Or, perhaps they will tell you to begin looking for alternative housing.   In any case, speaking with an elder law attorney about your rights may not be a such a bad idea.

Regardless of regulations and certifications, there should be a moral obligation to take care of our elderly.   Unfortunately most decisions come down to the dreaded bottom line and with health care facilities across the country working in the Red it makes accepting less-than-staller forms of payments much more difficult.

For Information on Nursing Homes and Assisted Living: