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Working together to prevent suicide in seniors


Photo caption: Rehab and Leisure Assistant, Jennifer Sandhu, spends time with residents at Lions Manor, which in turn helps her better care for residents and their needs.

When we think about seniors in our community, depression is not a regular topic that comes to mind. We often think of increased medical conditions or frailty as common concerns, but in fact, depression is a frequent occurrence in aging populations and sadly, can be more prevalent in inpatient and long-term care facilities.

“When you think about it, residents in our care homes have experienced quite a bit of loss," says Jo-Anne Kirk, Manager, Residential Care & Services at Richmond Lions Manor Bridgeport (RLMB). “They've lost the ability to live independently, they've lost friends, family, and now they have a higher level of physical care needs. It can be a lot for someone to manage."

In fact, a BCMJ article published in 2017 highlighted that in a community study of adults older than 60 from both rural and urban centres, 27 percent complained of depressive symptoms. And according to Statistics Canada, 19 percent of Canada's suicide victims in 2009 were older than 60.

So what can we do to help work with residents dealing with depression in our care homes?

Recognizing the signs

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day—an opportunity for everyone in the community to come together to promote understanding about depression, suicide prevention, and potential for healing.

“Part of recognizing signs of depression is getting to know our residents better—and we support our care staff to do just that," says Jo-Anne, explaining that getting to know residents and building trust allows staff to not only better care for their needs, but also creates opportunities for residents to feel comfortable sharing when they're struggling mentally and emotionally.   

As part of Richmond Lions Manor Bridgeport's participation in the CLEAR Initiative to reduce anti-psychotic use in residential care, RLMB has also recently implemented a schedule that allows for care aides to spend dedicated one on one time developing stronger relationships with residents, which allows staff to better help them in times of need.

A multi-faceted approach

Strong rehabilitation and leisure programs, as well as resources such as the Suicide Prevention in Residential Care Standard Operating Procedure, Geriatric Depression Scale, the SAD PERSONS screening tool, and daily huddles are valuable prevention and response tools. “In health care, we focus a lot on pain and pain management. But pain can be so much more than just physical—it can be emotional, psychological, or even spiritual," says Jo-Anne. “By integrating these proactive standards into our daily practice, we can help support our residents through what can be a difficult time in their life to hopefully, find contentment and well-being."

SOURCE: Working together to prevent suicide in seniors ( )
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