This blog was written by an elder law colleague of mine, Victoria Collier, Esq., who lives in Georgia. I met Victoria years ago but knew nothing of her personal life. I did not realize that her life was directly impacted by the suicide of her mother while young. I encourage you to read her post below. It is a very thoughtful insight to suicide by a now middle-aged woman with her own children.
“Death is a difficult topic. But death by suicide is a very controversial topic, one that I am going to start here as it is very close to my heart. I grew up hearing, “suicide is the most selfish act” and as an adult I have heard the same sentiment but phrased differently as, the last act of F-You.”
My mother committed suicide when I was six and I barely knew her. However, I knew enough to know that she was struggling with life. She had bi-polar disorder before adequate treatment become a “thing.” I know she was loving and did her best. I know she tried to kill herself several times before she was “successful.” I know that living, for her, was painful without signs of relief no matter how many prescriptions she was taking.
For many of my elderly clients who live with chronic pain, depression, isolation and loneliness, they contemplate suicide. Some actually take action. Senior citizen males are the highest risk demographic of suicide deaths.
When discussing health care advanced directives and end of life choices, a majority of my clients express they do not want to live if they do not have a quality of life. Everyone defines that differently. For some, lack of quality of life means living with memory loss and they can no longer express any recognition of family members. For others that means they feel they have no purpose or ways to contribute in a meaningful way. Yet, for others that means they feel like they are a burden on loved ones.
Most recently, an elderly male client expressed in our meeting that he would shoot himself if he ever got to a point where he could not take care of himself. I understand the inclination. When I worked as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home, I spent many days with men literally crying when I cleaned them up after a bowel movement because they were so embarrassed.
We have to have meaningful conversations about life and death; about quality of life and death. About the differences of people who are 15, 25, 45, 75, and 95 years old feel about living and dying. We cannot treat everyone with the same “prevention” paint brush. Until we have these real, meaningful conversations, we will continue to have silent death by suicide. We will continue to have separation of those who feel full of life and those who do not. We will continue to have pain while alive, during death, and after loved ones have died.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, we are here to provide our full support. You can also contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255 or visit their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
To discuss your NJ elder care matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County NJ Elder Care Attorney