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CDC: Suicide rate spikes among seniors

Recent studies have indicated that general satisfaction tends to increase as adults get older. A 2012 study from Northeastern University suggests that older adults are better able to hold on to positive memories. Still, despite the fact they're happier, suicide rates also raise sharply later in life, shedding light on the significant impact depression can play in senior living. Experts say there are a number of reasons for the sharp increase, and senior care providers as well as family members should be on the lookout for the warning signs.

A variety of factors
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among adults 65 and older is about 14.9 per 100,000. For the general population, that figure stands at 12.4 per 100,000, and experts estimate that the number of suicides in the senior population may be underreported. Health care specialists speculate that the reason for the increase is that depression can sometimes go unnoticed because seniors are less likely to seek help. Furthermore, disability, illness and social isolation can play a significant role.

"We believe connections are what bind us to life," Patrick Arbore, founder and director of the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention, told The New York Times. "Just having the opportunity to talk might shift their view of the end, temporarily. It might not have to happen today."

What can be done?
One of the most important steps to take when it comes to suicide prevention is recognizing signs of depression in seniors. This isn't always easy, but there are some telltale symptoms, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. For instance, memory problems, confusion, social isolation and vague complaints of pain are all potential indicators of depression. It's also important for caregivers to be particularly vigilant when it comes to seniors who have cancer, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis or who have recently experienced a stroke.

Recognizing the symptoms of depression is just the first part of the process. There are a number of ways for caregivers to address the issue, including providing services that not only help seniors maintain a sense of independence around their home, but also provide companionship. Having a companion can encourage seniors to be more active, both socially and physically.