Article Addresses Suicide Risks for Seniors in Residential Homes

Calls for facilities to take measures to counter suicidal behaviors
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly residents of communal living facilities are at risk of suicidal behaviors that may be due to their underlying reasons for moving into the residential homes, and public health systems and residential communities should take steps to counter these behaviors, according to an article published online May 18 in PLoS Medicine.

In the article, Carol Podgorski of the University of Rochester, New York, and colleagues discuss risk factors for suicidal behavior in older adults living in residential communities. These include social factors, such as widowing, divorce, substance abuse, loss and family discord, and medical factors, such as increased psychotic and physical illness.

The authors also suggest measures that public health systems and residential communities can take to prevent suicidal behavior in this population, including changing the attitudes of those who live and work in the facilities and considering how existing programs, policies and procedures could mitigate or exacerbate risk. They note that facility characteristics found to be associated with increased suicidal behaviors include high staff turnover and larger facilities.

"Because the functional capacities of residents, health care resources, quality indicators, and financial incentive structures differ by setting, the intensity of need and opportunities for intervention vary. There is no single blueprint for a suicide prevention plan. It is incumbent upon each facility to assess its own characteristics and resident populations and to use that information to set priorities and establish relevant goals," the authors write.

A study co-author works for a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-funded national technical assistance center, which involves co-managing the Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention.

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