Kaiser Health News (KHN) and PBS NewsHour have released a new investigation (We posted this article a week ago) and video on suicide in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult care homes. Data from the University of Michigan shows that each year hundreds of suicides by older adults are related to long-term care, with up to a third of residents reporting suicidal thoughts. Federal regulations do not require reporting on suicides in long-term care. The National Violent Death Reporting System reported nearly 50,000 suicides among people 55 and older from 2003 to 2015. Of these suicides, 2.2% were related to long-term care – meaning the person who died was living in or transitioning to long-term care or the person who died was a caregiver. When KHN extrapolated these findings for 2017, it determined 16,500 suicides would have been reported among people 55 and older and concluded that at least 364 of those suicides would have been among people living in or moving to long-term care settings or people who were caregivers to someone receiving long-term care.
While nursing homes cannot be penalized for a suicide occurring on-site, in some cases nursing homes have been cited for breaking federal rules related to maintaining residents’ well-being, preventing avoidable accidents and notifying a resident’s doctor and family if they are at risk of harm.
In the KHN article, Dr. Yeates Conwell, director of the Office for Aging Research and Health Services at the University of Rochester, identified the main risks for senior suicide as depression, debility, access to deadly means and disconnectedness. “Pretty much all of the factors that we associate with completed suicide risk are going to be concentrated in long-term care.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of nursing home residents are diagnosed with depression. But, Conwell contends, “Older adulthood is not a time when it’s normal to feel depressed. It’s not a time when it’s normal to feel as if your life has no meaning. If those things are coming across, that should send up a red flag.”
Advocates have called for thorough screenings prior to entry to facilities and ongoing monitoring in order to prevent suicides in long-term care facilities. Some have also launched projects to train staff and engage fellow residents to address suicides in long-term care.
If you or someone you know has talked about contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat, both available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
People 60 and older can call the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour, toll-free Friendship Line at 800-971-0016. IOA also makes ongoing outreach calls to lonely older adults.
Or call 2-1-1.
SOURCE: This article is from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care online newsletter.