There is a “paucity” of research into why elderly people in nursing homes commit suicide, according to a review of the literature in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. And in the studies that have been done, the roles that nursing home conditions, staff or different psychiatric or psychological interventions may have played are rarely examined.
In their review, the Monash University researchers found only eight relevant studies in English, of which five were conducted in the US. These studies collectively examined 113 suicides in nursing homes, and 101 had detailed information available.
The researchers identified a number of individual risk factors for suicide, such as being male, being depressed, or having previously attempted suicide. But systemic issues were almost never examined.
“None of the studies formally examined interventions nor discussed recommendations for organizational or structural changes to reduce the risk of suicide in nursing homes,” the researchers stated. “This represents a gap in the literature as organizational factors and environmental stressors of the nursing home including shared rooms, staff turnover, and facility regimens and regulations may contribute to depression in older nursing home residents.”
“There is a paucity of research describing completed suicide among nursing home residents,” the researchers concluded. “More large-scale research is required using standardized methods for reporting information to better understand and prevent completed suicides in this setting.”
Murphy, Briony J., Lyndal Bugeja, Jennifer Pilgrim, and Joseph E. Ibrahim. “Completed Suicide among Nursing Home Residents: A Systematic Review.” International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, May 1, 2015, n/a – n/a. doi:10.1002/gps.4299. (Abstract)