Doctor’s Diary January 23, 2018: Elder suicide

(Snippets from the frontline)

Elder suicide

We’ve heard these words before:  “He died peacefully in his sleep.”

As a geriatric physician, I fear that an elder senior has committed suicide through medication overdose.

This occurs more frequently than we think as some seniors are in distress.  How do I know?  My patients confide their intent during face-to-face visits.  I hear their cry for help so discuss with them, and family members, causes and hopeful solutions.

Nowadays, this conversation does not take place because doctors, nurses, and relatives ignore warning signs and are too busy to listen.

Think about this:  Statistically, suicide for those 50 or older is higher than any age group.  Many have lost their spouse, are depressed, lose purpose, have financial worries, feel they are a burden to their loved ones, and sense physical and mental age creeping up on them.

For aches and pains, doctors prescribe medication that can be lethal in high doses.  Some seniors accumulate them with the knowledge they will intentionally ingest a handful…then go to sleep.

Be on the alert.

We might be able to provide worthy life-prolonging solutions if we just listen.

Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D.

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