Suicide Risk for Seniors in Care Facilities.
Seniors living in assisted-living and long-term care facilities may have a higher rate of suicide than those who continue living in their own homes, suggests a new report.
People over 65 commit suicide at a rate of about 14 per 100,000 people, but in a study of Italian people living in long-term care facilities, researchers found that the rate of suicide was nearly 19 per 100,000 people.
One reason may be that stressful or troubling events -- such as death of a spouse, illness or a decline in physical function -- may underlie the move to a residential care facility, the researchers say.
"The risk of suicide may be heightened during the first year," said the report's lead author, Carol Podgorski, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester in New York. "There's relocation stress, and that's when they're dealing with whatever caused them to move."
The report was published online May 18 in the journal PLoS Medicine.
Teasing out the exact reasons that cause the increase as well as developing potential prevention strategies is important because nearly one-quarter of all seniors will live in a residential care facility at some point, according to background information in the report.
More than one million seniors in the United States live in assisted-living facilities, most of them female (about 80 percent), the report said. The average age of residents is about 85 years. Many others live in independent-living communities, long-term care facilities, also called nursing homes, and continuing care retirement communities, which include all three.
Overall risk factors for senior suicide include anxiety, substance abuse, psychotic disorders, social dependency or isolation, family troubles or losses, an inflexible personality and access to firearms. Specific risk factors for older people living in a residential home include being widowed or divorced, having a pessimistic outlook, sleeping more than nine hours a day and drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a day.