97 Year-Old With Suicidal Ideations

Depressed elderly man wearing suit with red tie

Depression In The Elderly

If you think that depression runs only in children, adolescents or middle-aged adults facing a midlife crisis, then think again. The elderly are very prone to depression for many reasons. You would think that by reaching your 80s or 90s, you would be happy to have lived such a long life and have experienced many decades full of excitement and technological changes and advancements. But depression is depression and like I always like to say, it has no boundaries!

Mental illness does not care whether you’re good-looking, ugly, poor, rich, tall, short, 97 or 10 years of age . . . it attempts to hook you and keep a strong grasp on you until one of three things happen: you successfully recover, you continue to be tortured by living symptomatically or you kill yourself. Obviously mental illness prefers option number two and three; successfully recovering means that mental illness has failed and has to go looking for another potential victim.

Depression in the elderly happens for many reasons. Even those who have lived prosperous lives can fall into depression when they become old. Remember that the brain ages and when it does so, it starts to malfunction along with the senses. The body also becomes weaker. But one thing that remains the same is the soul, so when the soul recognizes that the mind and body are falling apart, it becomes vulnerable to sadness.

So even the elderly experience suicidal ideations of wishing to be dead, “I’ve lived long enough . . . I’m better off dead.” But they don’t actually want to die because after they receive some Lexapro and Seroquel into their system, they start to feel much better and deny feeling depressed or suicidal. But if they lack a strong psychosocial support system, they may fall in-between the cracks and unfortunately pass away.

That’s why it’s very important to keep in touch with any elders who you may know and constantly check in with them regarding how they’re feeling. The elderly may no longer have facial expressions or a body language that is obvious in regards to depression; they may just sit there with a blank facial expression entertaining various ways of ending their lives, such as mixing their pills with a bottle of Jack and overdosing in the middle of the night.

Just because grandpa or grandma has reached an impressive age of 97 does not mean that you should assume that “they’re doing great mentally . . . oh no, they would never do that doc!” The reality is that yes they would, given the opportunity, right setting and tools. Just as high blood pressure (hypertension) is known as the silent killer in physical health, so is depression in mental health.

The elderly depend on us just as how our children do so as well. We cannot leave anyone behind!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Depressed And Demented

Elderly woman with dementia sitting on wheelchair near houses and stone driveway

Ambien And Dementia

Understanding what an elderly person with dementia is going through is like trying to understand what it feels like to slowly lose your memory for good. Imagine forgetting to turn off the stove or driving to the supermarket and ending up across town by a bridge which you have never seen before!

Try to imagine what it would feel like to be living in your last years of life with memory loss. Not only is your life coming to an end and are unconsciously worrying whether you have lived a productive and meaningful life, but your memory is also slowly fading away. And imagine feeling confused and forgetting details related to everyday situations.

Imagine performing an activity with a person one day and almost forgetting about it the next; “what was it that we did yesterday?” Patients with dementia do not forget as much autobiographical information as they do with recent activities that were just performed. Ask them where and when they were born and they will most likely be able to provide you with that information.

Ask them what they had for breakfast and they will give you a blank stare! On top of that, 1/3 of patients with dementia suffer from depression. Let’s sum this scenario up:

  • Elderly knowing that your life is soon coming to an end
  • End of life worries regarding having lived a prosperous and fulfilling life
  • Confusion about everyday events
  • Memory loss about everyday events
  • Depression

How would you feel if you experienced the above scenario? In addition, many patients with dementia may be prescribed psychotropic medications despite contraindications. For instance, Prozac and Zoloft may cause fractures and falls in the elderly. Antipsychotics increase the risk of death in patients with dementia, and benzodiazepines increase the risk of falls in the elderly.

Ambien or Zolpidem is a “Z-Drug” or sleeping medication used for insomnia. It is known to cause cognitive impairment and amnesia as side effects. Consider a patient with dementia who is suffering from insomnia, and who is prescribed Ambien by their physician. Not only is this patient losing their memory, but they are now taking a medication that worsen’s their cognition!

One would argue, “no physician in their right mind would prescribe a demented patient a medication that does that!” But is it really that hard to believe? Just because someone went to medical school and received an MD or DO degree, does not mean that they are a competent physician!

Overall, we need to be understanding and compassionate in regards to what patients with dementia are going through; especially family members who understandably lose patience with their loved ones. Consider the symptoms mentioned above and try to put yourself in their shoes.

I don’t think you’ll be going to sleep tonight dreaming of that scenario!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)