Community Blog

Suicide and Seniors with Chronic Pain, Emotional Distress and Depression

By Debbie Humphrey

“I wish I were dead.” That’s what one elderly woman for whom I was caring repeated time and again to her caregivers and me. I would look at her with shock that she would think such a thing and tell her how happy all of her family and caregivers were that she was still with us! Her chronic pain was treated with a dose of Hydrocodone cut in half, three or more times each day.

Just the other day, another senior fellow asked, “Why am I still here?” My response was “It’s not your time to go in God’s plan for your life.”

These are only two examples of people who have entertained the final option of death due to chronic pain. According to Psychology Today, as many as “100 million American adults live with chronic pain, many of them with pain so bad it wrecks their work, their families, their mental health and their lives.”

With more than 41,000 suicide deaths each year, as many as half, or more than 20,000, could be due to chronic pain. Expressing a will to die is a red flag that someone is entertaining the notion of suicide and could follow-through with the action. There is no better reason why we need to listen to our loved ones and friends and be present for them, offering compassion and encouragement that they not take drastic measures as a permanent solution to a problem that may or may not be temporary.

Even though September has passed,” we should all continue to focus on its monthly theme of Suicide Prevention Awareness, especially with seniors suffering from chronic pain, depression and emotional distress.

Now that we into October, with national observances of Depression Education Awareness and Emotional Wellness, I think we should tie the three themes together as a triple-team threat against the negative and nourish positive emotional wellness to curb depression in seniors, in an effort to prevent instances of suicide among seniors.

Depression can be a result of chronic pain, emotional distress over the loss of loved ones and loneliness. Chronic pain can be treated with medications, physical therapy, rehabilitation and pain management techniques. This can help seniors resume activities of daily living, thus reducing instances of emotional distress and depression, thereby preventing thoughts and actions of suicide.

Companionship by family members or caregivers can make a significant difference in the lives and minds of seniors. Loneliness is a big reason why seniors get depressed. Caregivers offer a listening ear, share laughs and tears, and promote healthy dialogue and relationships. They provide transportation assistance to/from doctor’s appointments, support groups, and senior activities, to keep their minds engaged through social interaction.

If seniors with chronic pain cannot cook for themselves anymore, they may not be getting proper nutrients, which fuel the proper function of bodies and minds. Family members and caregivers can help by shopping for groceries, preparing healthy meals, sharing in conversation at the table or bedside, and managing the clean-up.

Speaking of clean-up, I have found that the more clutter and disarray around the home, the more overwhelming it is for seniors to keep clean and move about safely. This can cause emotional distress, as well as safety concerns. Family members and caregivers can help by doing light housework, organizing files and photographs, and moving items out of walkways and staircases to enhance safety in and around the home. These actions not only help keep seniors safe from tripping and falling, but they help eliminate the negative thoughts and feelings about their surroundings that can become mentally and physically paralyzing.

If you know a senior who suffers from chronic pain, is emotionally distressed, depressed, or are expressing thoughts of suicide, please give me a call. I am happy to offer a FREE in-home consultation to discuss specific needs and ways our caregivers can lend a hand. I also have numerous resources that can help family members and their senior loved ones in these and other scenarios.

Home Helpers® proudly serves male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Contact me today to learn more about the many services offered through Home Helpers® We are Making Life Easier℠ 727.972.2539
Source: Psychology Today