Suggestions, remarks, questions, praises, accolades and appreciations are never bestowed on people as they grow old. Those men and women who were once considered to be the smartest of the lot, who were approached for suggestions or those whose ideologies were followed word-to-word are isolated and sympathized as they grow old. Neglecting people owing to their old age has become our second nature. There are some who do it knowingly and many others who do it unknowingly. We are ready to pounce upon their inheritance and their rich experience when we need help but not so ready to give a helping hand when they need someone to share their thoughts and be loved. Such social isolation, physical illnesses, functional decline and vulnerability are making more and more people think about committing suicide.
There is a constant concern about rise in the risk of chronic health problems affecting the elderly population and their vulnerability to immune-related health issues. But what we don’t realize is that suicide is one of the top reasons for death in the elderly population. Its ratio has multiplied such that rational suicide and assisted suicide has been approved in certain parts of the world. It has become one of the pressing public health problems, especially among the male population whose rates are quite high comparatively. A man’s confidence lies in his ability to earn money and take care of his family. Once he retires and family members become adults who start leading a family of their own, he starts losing his confidence and there is a greater slide in his spirits and energy if it involves the loss of a spouse. Whereas, women though might not be called the head of the family play an integral role in keeping the family united and are sought after by their kids well until later years. Her ability to cook, take care of grandchildren, give valuable suggestions on family issues and keeping the house a home helps her hold better authority and feel useful of her existence compared to a man. But as years progress and her health takes a detour, she does start feeling isolated even more when her kids and grandkids stay far away.
Suicide: Surviving the Quicksand
We may come up with different reasons to quote for the suicide of an elderly adult but one of the most prevalent causes is loneliness. Many elders live alone and such a life, especially after the death of a spouse can hurt them beyond words and they struggle to overcome such a tremendous loss but without success. This sets the foundation for mental health problems such as depression and grief. Family members and friends regard this grief and depression as a part of the elderly person’s routine aging procedure and they ignore it mostly. Besides, many others also fear the risk of becoming a burden, get socially disconnected and also fear that they would lose their ability to function in daily life all of which adds on to the mental illness.
Also, 3/4th of adults live with a chronic disease most probably diabetes or arthritis and many start losing their ability to do their daily routine on their own, start depending on others for small tasks and even lose the ability to read, hear or drive properly-all of which are the essence of a happy existence bringing meaning to life. Some even succumb to memory-related issues and start realizing that they might be affected with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia in the future. All these makes them decide to end their life. Suicide is not an act that happens after careful thinking but something that happens on impulsivity. Seeing someone suffer from Alzheimer’s during the last years of their life or terminal cancer can motivate other elderly people to self-end their lives while they are hale and healthy. Having someone with terminal cancer? Better to educate yourself on the multiple ways in which you can make their lives easier by visiting www.firsteatright.com. Satisfaction and contentment in life becomes smaller and smaller as burdens start getting bigger and the time might come when you feel that it’s the right juncture in life to terminate your presence in this world. Social media and interaction among people have prompted more and more elderly people to try to end their lives when they are maximum happy in their old age. I once met a 75-year-old husband and his 72-year-old wife who wished to end their life when they were happy and were planning to travel to a country where assisted suicide is ethical. This might seem depressing to hear and read but remains as the fact of life. This also brings us to yet another important ideology that if this remains in practice the time is not far away when desires become regulations; rules might be established where people above so-and-so age are obliged to die willingly and children willingly take their parents to the death bed where physicians can end the lives of their dear mom and dad. Aren’t we reminded of the great writer Sujatha who has established this storyline in one of his fictional books decades back?
When we see our parents, grandparents or any elderly person talking about being a burden to others or seeming to be uninterested in life it is our duty to help them become cheerful, lighten their mood and help them overcome concerns. Build close-knitted relationships with seniors, help them stay connected with each other maybe through groups or communities and treat them as an integral part of your life. With constant human care, psychological well-being, medical attention, physical health and exercise it is possible to improve their mental health and bring in positivity. Please don’t lose the love and affection of elderly people in struggling to lead your life with ample commitments and economic crunches. It is the people around us who help hold us together in times of distress and low ebbs. It does take time to sit with a person, share your day’s experiences and make them laugh but its worth every second spent. Suicide is not the answer to all the worries and setbacks in life. Cherish the presence of old people and make them feel valued by your gestures.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.