Tuesday, September 05, 2006

95 Alzheimer's and suicide

My mother and I have both said, repeatedly, that if we come down with AD we'll kill ourselves rather than be a burden.
However, it seems like we aren't allowing my dad the same choice. When he talks of suicide we dismiss it or try to stop him.
I was wondering how many people with AD kill themselves. Here's what I found:
In the Netherlands, 22% of those diagnosed with Alzheimers elect assisted suicide.
The Alzheimer's Association website has a 2 page PDF about suicide with no facts/figures. Their position is that no one should actively commit suicide or help another with it (Kevorkian is mentioned) and that refusal of treatment is different, and that's okay.
The abstract of another article says about 8% of AD patients attempt suicide.
When you think about how many people have AD--what is it, 14 million?--that's 1 million, one hundred twenty THOUSAND suicide attempts. 1,120,000. Nothing about successes.
This cause of death list says AD moved up to number 7 in 2004 (last available year) with almost 66,000 deaths. Suicide is #11 but it doesn't break it down by WHY people killed themselves.
I found this kind of random series of journal excerpts from a man who worries he has AD and the final entry is that he does, and he mentions suicide. His site is very interesting and I've written to him.
But the end result is, after an hour of Google, I can't find any real stats except that one tiny study.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gevera,

Thanks for the interesting information. I'm working on a long-ish post about depression in Alzheimer's patients, so this is interesting. A large percentage of Alzheimer's patients are clinically depressed, perhaps because of degeneration of certain areas of the brain, perhaps because of what they're experiencing. Depression seems to add to the suffering of many AD patients and their caregivers. My first post on depression and Alzheimer's is up at http://www.tangledneuron.info/the_tangled_neuron/2006/09/stress_depressi.html, and I hope to have the second one up in a couple of days. I hope these posts are at all helpful to you.

Anonymous said...

My husband just told me that he intends to commit suicide before he becomes incompetent from Lewy Body Dementia. He is currently rational and not depressed; I incline to think he has the right to make that choice but not to be willing to help him. Have you chosen differently, and what lead you to your approach?

Becky said...

My father-in-law has late stage AD and I know, as much as I love my family, I will commit suicide before I let myself be taken care of like he has to be. He is not sad like us, we are heartbroken when we visit, as he no longer knows us. I will not put my children thru this, it would be too hard on them. I am getting very forgetful now, maybe my age or menopause, but if I am diagnosed with it, I am gone. I love my family too much to have them see me fade away like that. Why more people don't do it is surprising to me. It seems like a very logical thing to do.

Becky said...

If I find out I have AD, I will commit suicide because I have been thru the pain and heartbreak of seeing my father-in-law decline till he does not know us anymore. We still have him over to our house weekly, but he no longer remembers that we are his family. I will never put my husband or children thru the heartbreak that we are going thru now. He is at peace, comfortable with us, but we are so heartbroken that Sundays are now painful for us. I don't see why suicide is not more prevalent with people who have been diagnosed with AD. I am just trying to be kind to my family. I have already started to forget somethings and become confused about our children's past, but I am still ok. I just don't want to get so bad that I can't do it, but don't want to go too soon. Thanks for listening to me, no one else will.

Anonymous said...

I am certain I have early onset Alzhimers. I am 57 and my mother in her 80s has Alzheimers. She however has a husband who spends his life undoing her messes, finding her lost stuff,etc. She is lucky- still able to live just fine- never worked, he has provided for her.

I am single with little savings. I am petrified. The changes started a couple of years ago, but of course I did not realize- when I lost my IRS return check IN MY OWN ROOM or wrote a check to VISA for 2080 instead of 280 what was happening. Now I see it. I used a shoe to bang in a nail at my job yesterday - then I could not find my shoe ANYWHERE. I forgot I used it. It was on the desk. I put mail in the oven. Etc. I mentioned this to my sister who has zero response. so I have no support at all. For me control of my comings and going are paramount. I have been thinking that I would die before be in a position where someone could abuse me or control my daily life- I really would. I know there are early onset groups etc. I have to go to the dr. but she may deny like sis. I am not hysterical or a hypoocondriac- I just know myself and have read carefully about the types of memory changes,etc. So I am depressed, alone and terrified. I cannot look forward to ever having a single day of retirement since this illness seems to take over within about a decade of diagnosis. I have no family to support me- there is no caregiver. This really is hard- I apologize if I sound self-pitying. I have struggled through my life with some very bad things and have sort of come out on the other side. I was really looking forward to hopefully having some years that proved it was all worth while. This is very disappointing. I can't change jobs- etc. seems to me because I do not know how I will be functionally in what amount of time. THank you for allowing me to vent. THe odd thing is I am most afraid of being separated from my companion pets who i love and adore.
Thank you. I know this is altogether different in almost every way from other depressions etc. I have had and also from memory issues I had at menopause-
DDS email: dds35day@netscape.net

Anonymous said...

I am reasonably certain I also have early onset Alzheimer's at age 53. My mother has Alzheimer's, as did all four of her older sisters. My father committed suicide four years ago, shortly after my mother's diagnosis. I, too, will take my own life before allowing my family to have to deal with my illness.

Hmmingbrd1 said...

Anonymous, I am so sorry to hear that you have the early set of alzheimer's. How long do you let yourself go before you take your life? I am worried that one day I will wake up and forget I have it and there it is, a burden for my family. But I don't want to go too soon either, I want to see my grandchild grow up, as well as my children. So when is the right time? Visiting the nursing home where my father in law is at is heartbreaking for me, all the people there sitting and walking around like zombies...thru no fault of their own of course. I just hate the disease so much. If you need to talk, contact me at Hmmingbrd1@aol.com I will listen.

Terry said...

I, too, would like to leave this life before I become a burden to loved ones. I think the reason people with AD don't often do this is because it is very difficult to find the means. We don't want to use a gun -- it's scary and messy and terrible for those who find you. We'd like to use gentle drugs and be able to say good-bye beforehand and not be alone -- but this is almost impossible in our society. I am glad about the recent progress of the Death with Dignity movement. Unfortunately, the time is not ripe politically for this movement to support suicide for people with AD.

Unknown said...

The early stages of Alzheimer's and other causes of dementia can be difficult to spot, but there are some signs that are useful in spotting the disease.

Anonymous said...

great post... I have to say, Most people who do have alzheimers do not know that they have it.. Or will not remember that they put the mail in the oven or the shoes to pound a nail... 1) I believe that people should have the right to assisted suicide, Not to go alone.. But the question is when.. when is the right time???
When is it just stress causing us to forget... and how will we know the difference when the time comes?

jterry500 said...

As a person with Alzheimer's, I strongly disagree with the person who wrote that most people with Alzheimer's don't know they have it.

I was a very high functioning person working in an IT Department, and first noticed a change in memory in 2008 but the results from the initial very simple screening fell within the normal range so no further action was taken. In April of 2009 it was clear that my memory had worsened and I was retested. Again, I was within the normal range but with slightly lower scores so they referred me to a neuro-psychologist and I went through a Neuro-psychological evaluationgivern by a psychometrist. Not for the faint of heart. 8 hours of cognitive testing that exercises each coggnitive function using two different methodologies to verify that results correlated to provide a level of certainty that the results accurately identified the impaired cognitive functions, and the extent of the impairment. You go through each test until you fail. That's how they can quantify your impairment for that function.

We're people just like you. You would know something was wrong if tried to balance your checkbook, which you used to do effortlessly, but one day you couldn't reconcile your checkbook ... when there were only two entries. This early stage can last years and years. But the telemetry is clear.

By the way, I'm a 55 year old woman with young-onset Alzheimers, but am very lucky to live in Seattle, Washington which is rich in resources: A chapter of the Alzheimer's Association that includes a support group specifically for young onset, a major Research University with one of the few Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers.

Anonymous said...

The rate of suicide is so low because the question of when to do it stretches on and on , dragged out by the desire to hold on to life, before they know it, the sufferers of this awful disease no longer have the cognitive ability to take the simple steps toward ending their life.