Loneliness can have serious consequences, even more when people live in complete isolation. About mental health and suicide prevention among seniors and why the death wish has nothing to do with an impulse decision in some cases.
Mental health and isolation, both terms that only became an issue with the onset of the pandemic for some among us. For people who spend the last stages of their lives alone, this burden, which everyone has been feeling for months, is nothing new. If solidarity with the elderly population was great at the beginning of the pandemic – and still is in some cases – the following question must be asked even without the Covid-19 setting: Are we neglecting the mental well-being of our senior citizens?
A question that cannot be answered just like that, says Dr Denise Reding-Jones of Omega 90. "Before we ask ourselves 'Is the mental health of older people being noticed?' we need to address whether seniors are being noticed at all." She speaks about age discrimination, known in English as ageism, i.e. discrimination against people or whole groups because of their age. "We talk – rightly – about racism and sexism, but ageism is rarely addressed in Luxembourg, although it is a well-known problem", explains the psychologist, psychotherapist and traumatologist. "Some people think that the only option for older people is to be deported to a retirement home. As a society, we are not very kind-hearted with the elderly population, although everyone should be aware that a human being is a human being and will be until their last breath."
Management in structures
However, it is no secret that older people in particular – STATEC counted just under 63,000 residents older than 70 in 2020 – struggle with being alone. "A large percentage live alone in their own homes", says Martina Thill, another psychologist and psychotherapist at Omega 90. Even without being in a pandemic, this is not uncommon, but Covid has made the situation of many all the worse, adds psychologist Andreas Hück. "After the first few months of the pandemic, Omega 90 had a discussion with politicians about the last few months, including how the crisis had been managed in home structures. One important conclusion was: Something like that (meaning the isolation of older people, ed.) must never happen again. It was partly very inhuman." One had to learn to live with the virus without "protecting the elderly to death". The impression is given "that those affected are left alone in their last years – that can't be the case and we don't do that."
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