UPTOWN — Each year, more than 42,000 Americans commit suicide and the elderly do it at the highest rate of any other age group, according to statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
People 85 and older made up nearly 20 percent of the suicides, while people between the ages of 45 and 64 had the second highest rate.
"Contributing to this suicide rate may be depression, loneliness, and the emotional difficulties of dealing with medical issues affecting many adults later in life," according to a news release from Weiss Hospital, which will host the Senior Mental Health Symposium this week.
From 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, doctors and specialist will host a forum discussing helping seniors with depression and other mental illnesses, as part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, at Weiss Medical's office building at 4700 N. Marine Drive, the news release said.
While Weiss has units dedicated to seniors allowing them to "get the care they need in a private, comfortable setting" it's just as important to have a "community discussion about how caregivers, families, and older adults themselves can learn about support and resources available outside of hospital care, which is why we wanted to offer this event,“ said Dr. Anthony Tedeschi, chief executive officer at Weiss.
Presenters and topics for the symposium include:
• Protecting Against Caregiver Stress presented by Dr. Michelle London, PsyD, Neuropsychologist
• Loneliness and Depression: Managing Medical Issues and Suicide Prevention presented by Dr. Whitney Belcher, PsyD, Psychologist
• Mental Health and Support Services for Older Adults presented by Joe Kerouac, Adult Protective Services Specialist for Catholic Charities
The top challenges seniors and their caregivers face is "denial that there is a medical condition that needs to be treated" and "caregiver stress as they adjust their life to accommodate their loved ones’ medical needs," said Ian Bonador, program director of Psychiatry at Weiss.
"Caring for the patient means caring for the caregiver too,” said Bonador.
“It’s important that the caregiver is involved as much as possible in the treatment of the patient, but caregivers need to take steps as well in order to protect against the stress that inevitably can accompany this role and the new emotional dynamic in the relationship,” said London, who cared for her mother with dementia for five years.
“Extra self-care is needed to protect the caregiver from developing a major depressive disorder and medical illnesses that can come with the prolonged stress and the demands of caregiving," said London. "We want to help prevent seniors and their caregivers from getting to the point of hopelessness."
Light refreshments will be served at the event.
Space is limited, so reservations are required. To register for the symposium click here or call 800-503-1234.
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