Suicide Risk Seen Among Older Adults Living in Long-Term Care

Mental health and well-being of older adults should be addressed in these settings, authors say

MONDAY, June 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- More than 2 percent of suicides among adults 55 years and older are associated with patients living in or transitioning to long-term care (LTC), according to a study published online June 14 in JAMA Network Open.

Briana Mezuk, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, and colleagues estimated the number of suicides associated with residential LTC among persons (≥55 years) in a facility, transitioning into or out of a facility, or otherwise associated with LTC in 27 states. Data included 47,759 suicides and undetermined deaths identified in the National Violent Death Reporting System. Long-term care associations were determined from the coroner/medical examiner case narrative. Further, the researchers assessed whether machine learning tools could improve the quality of suicide surveillance data.

The researchers report that of the 47,759 identified persons (median age, 64 years; 77.6 percent male; 90.0 percent non-Hispanic white), 1,037 suicide deaths were associated with LTC, including 428 among older adults living in LTC, 449 among older adults transitioning to LTC, and 160 otherwise associated with LTC. Only 263 cases were coded with the existing National Violent Death Reporting System location code "supervised residential facility," demonstrating poor agreement with cases that the algorithm identified as occurring in LTC.

"Leaders in the field have continued to call for a shift away from a medicalized paradigm of residential LTC toward institutional practices that instead focus on fostering meaningful interactions between residents, promote engagement in care, and enhance quality of life," the authors write.

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