Murder-suicide attributed to Alzheimer's fatigueAn 80-year-old man committed suicide after apparently killing his 78-year-old wife, who was suffering from Alzheimer's, according to the police on Wednesday.
The daughter called the police after finding her parents dead in their home in Songpa District, southern Seoul.
She visited her parents because they were not answering her calls.
The husband’s suicide note read, “I’m taking her with me.”
From the note, the police suspect that the husband killed his wife before committing suicide. They gave no causes of death for either husband or wife.
The wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2018.
Her condition drastically deteriorated since the start of this year, so the couple began to visit a nearby Alzheimer’s support center.
At the center, the husband participated in dementia education programs and had counseling sessions with the staff.
He even acquired a caregiving license to properly take care of his wife.
But the couple’s visits to the center fell off in May and stopped in June.
Welfare officials said that the couple may have tumbled into a blind spot in the care system for seniors.
Workers at the local community center said they were not aware of the couple’s dire situation because they were not registered in their system as a household in crisis.
Indeed, the couple didn't get public assistance and was not registered as a low-income family.
To avoid situations like this, a law that enabled sharing of patient information among caregivers, related medical and support facilities and community service centers was passed last year.
But a functioning system has yet to be put in place.
As Korean society ages, homicides and suicides of elderly caregivers may become more common.
In 2019, an elderly husband murdered his wife, an Alzheimer’s patient, after taking care of her for seven years. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
In Japan, where the population is aging even faster than Korea's, a term has been coined for a caregiver’s exhaustion that leads to violence: "caregiver murder."
Korea ranks fourth highest for suicide rates, according to the World Health Organization. In that number, elderly suicides are a big part. As traditional nuclear families disappear and more and more seniors live alone, many are isolated, lonely, and exhausted from taking care of sick loved ones.
If you or someone you know is feeling emotionally distressed or struggling with thoughts of suicide, LifeLine Korea can be contacted at 1588-9191 or the Crisis Counseling Center at 1577-0199. The Seoul Global Center offers English-language counseling, contact 02-2075-4180 (+1) to arrange a session. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
BY LEE HAY-JUNE, LEE JIAN [firstname.lastname@example.org]