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Murder-Suicide of Elderly Couple Worried About Healthcare Bills

Where is our country's care of the elderly headed?

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Melissa Mills specializes in Nurse Case Manager, Professor, Freelance Writer.

An elderly couple dead after an apparent murder-suicide is a devastating headline to read. However, when their healthcare debt is to blame, it feels shameful. Learn more about the story here.

Murder-Suicide of Elderly Couple Worried About Healthcare Bills
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An elderly couple near Ferndale, Washington may have given into the stressors of financial struggles from looming healthcare bills. An article published on wtap, an NBC affiliate, reported that dispatchers received a call on the morning of August 7th from 77-year-old Brian Jones. He told the dispatcher, “I am going to shoot myself.’ The dispatcher tried to keep the man on the phone while he activated emergency services. However, Jones told the dispatcher, “We will be in the front bedroom.”

When the police arrived, they tried to contact anyone inside the home without success. After an hour, they sent in a robot-mounted camera and found the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was lying next to his 76-year old wife, Patricia Whitney-Jones, who was also dead from a gunshot wound that investigators believed was caused by Jones. Detectives are calling this a likely murder-suicide and report that they found several notes citing ongoing medical problems for Jones’ wife that the couple could not afford.

America’s Elderly Healthcare Financial Crisis

Did you know that the U.S. spends twice as much on healthcare than any other developed nation around the world? It’s estimated that 18 percent of our gross domestic product each year goes to support our healthcare system. Many older adults incur higher than average medical costs related to chronic health conditions. One study estimated that a couple who retired in 2017 at the age of 65 needed $280,000 in savings to cover future healthcare costs such as premiums for doctors and medications. If these elderly individuals also required additional services such as long-term care or assisted living, they would need additional funds to cover these costs.

As a nurse, you know that individuals with chronic illness spend more money and time in the healthcare system. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that half of the population accounts for 97 percent of US health spending. Many people struggle to keep up with drug costs as well. A whopping 30 percent of people age 50-64 have difficulty paying for prescription drugs. For many people, not having their medication leads to exacerbations of their conditions, and ultimately, they land back in the hospital, where care is even more expensive.

In a recent New York Times article, Paula Span reported even more details about the future of healthcare for America’s aged population. By 2029, middle-income older adults will need between $25,000 to $74,000 to pay for just one year of long-term care services. While most older adults will need at least some increased level of care, the majority won’t be able to afford it. With the increase in the elderly population, we aren’t talking about a small number of people. In fact, it’s estimated that this group of adults will almost double in the next decade, and will consist of approximately 14.4 million people. While many will want to age-in-place at home, some will require care that simply can’t be delivered outside of the confines of a nursing facility. This will leave them searching for ways to afford the level of care they require.

When Financial Stress is Too Much

As you think about the future forecast of healthcare costs in America, what comes to mind? Do you feel that we may see more stories like Jones and his wife? Most of us were raised to respect our elders. Some of us even went into nursing to make a difference for people just like this couple. The thought of older adults seeing their healthcare needs as a burden that they can’t handle saddens me in so many ways.

What Do You Think?

Tell us what you think about this devastating story. What do you think the future of healthcare holds for older adults? Do you have any thoughts on how the healthcare community can impact our future in a positive way for our elders? Share your thoughts below.

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

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headofcurls specializes in Critical Care.

So sad. Where do we begin with solutions for the future? ☹️ Things like this make me really want to have a hefty savings and some passive income in my old age, just to survive. 💗

Snatchedwig specializes in Medsurg.

46 minutes ago, headofcurls said:

So sad. Where do we begin with solutions for the future? ☹️ Things like this make me really want to have a hefty savings and some passive income in my old age, just to survive. 💗

That's how you supposed to retire anyways.

headofcurls specializes in Critical Care.

15 minutes ago, Snatchedwig said:

That's how you supposed to retire anyways.

Couldn’t agree more!

MSO4foru specializes in Hospice Home Care and Inpatient.

Many years ago when I was a CNA on a neuro unit, we had a lovely elderly gentleman who was just diagnosed with a glioblastoma. His wife had moderate Alz. Adult children remotely involved. About a week after discharge, he shot ( and killed )his wife then committed suicide. Our healthcare system and what our society values has to change. Couple years ago I had a married couple for hospice pts. Husband decided was too worried about future would hold. Convinced wife that they should die together. Both stopped eating and drinking and taking non comfort meds. They died about 11 days later.

HarleyvQuinn specializes in Military, ER/Trauma, Psych, Post-Partum, Med-Surg.

On ‎8‎/‎13‎/‎2019 at 6:06 PM, Snatchedwig said:

That's how you supposed to retire anyways.

This is becoming increasingly out of reach in our society. Even for those who spent their working lives at one company and were lucky to retire with a vested pension - all the company has to do is file for bankruptcy and only a small fraction of that pension is now delivered to the retiree. They're left with nothing. Wages that have been stagnant as the cost of living continues to increase. More and more of the manufacturing and other jobs that once supported lower and lower-middle class families up-rooted and moved overseas for cheaper labor. The high costs of education needed for the decreasing chances to obtain jobs in some fields. Healthcare expenses, even with insurance, that can wipe out your savings from one hospitalization. God help you if you're diagnosed with cancer or suffer a limiting or disabling injury. Our workplace and labor laws, especially in areas without unions, are heavily tipped in the employer's favor.

Hell, the company I worked for recently gutted their retirement program making it harder for you to even get their "company match" percentage. Now you have to have worked a certain number of hours within the year, have to have been there since before the new year, and oh the company holds the money in their own account and only deposits the "match" amount at the end of the year. Any interest accrued? They keep that.

Davey Do specializes in Psych, CD, HH, Admin, LTC, OR, ER, Med Surge.

"Detectives are calling this a likely murder-suicide and report that they found several notes citing ongoing medical problems for Jones’ wife that the couple could not afford."

With all due love, respect, and empathy to all, the above statement just may be a fallacy in logic, called temporal continuity. In other words, just because two things happened simultaneously does not mean they are necessarily related.

The "likely murder-suicide" is linked with the subject of elderly healthcare crisis by the words "and report they found". It is a strong link, but not necessarily a definitive conclusion.

In a lot of cases, especially in situations dealing with the elderly and others with terminal illnesses cases, commit suicide because they want to have some control over their death; a death with dignity. Books by Lonny Shavelson and Derek Humphries go into great detail of individuals who committed suicide, or were assisted in the act, because they desired "a chosen death".

Personally, I have a great amount of respect and admiration for this couple who planned the act, respectfully alerted officials, "He told the dispatcher, 'I am going to shoot myself.’ The dispatcher tried to keep the man on the phone while he activated emergency services. However, Jones told the dispatcher, 'We will be in the front bedroom' " and carried it out.

There's more to this story than "their healthcare debt is to blame". Multiple other stressors, mental illness, or just downright selfishness may be involved, but it's doubtful. This couple may just have wanted a chosen death with dignity.

The premise of this apparent murder-suicide being linked to the elderly healthcare crisis is merely conjecture and makes for an interesting eye-catching read.

Detectives are calling this a likely murder-suicide and report that they found several notes citing ongoing medical problems for Jones’ wife that the couple could not afford.

Sounds like they killed themselves because they couldn't afford their medical bills, why Davey Do do you think "This couple may just have wanted a chosen death with dignity"?

KalipsoRed21 specializes in Currently: Home Health.

On 8/15/2019 at 4:37 AM, Davey Do said:

"Detectives are calling this a likely murder-suicide and report that they found several notes citing ongoing medical problems for Jones’ wife that the couple could not afford."

With all due love, respect, and empathy to all, the above statement just may be a fallacy in logic, called temporal continuity. In other words, just because two things happened simultaneously does not mean they are necessarily related.

The "likely murder-suicide" is linked with the subject of elderly healthcare crisis by the words "and report they found". It is a strong link, but not necessarily a definitive conclusion.

In a lot of cases, especially in situations dealing with the elderly and others with terminal illnesses cases, commit suicide because they want to have some control over their death; a death with dignity. Books by Lonny Shavelson and Derek Humphries go into great detail of individuals who committed suicide, or were assisted in the act, because they desired "a chosen death".

Personally, I have a great amount of respect and admiration for this couple who planned the act, respectfully alerted officials, "He told the dispatcher, 'I am going to shoot myself.’ The dispatcher tried to keep the man on the phone while he activated emergency services. However, Jones told the dispatcher, 'We will be in the front bedroom' " and carried it out.

There's more to this story than "their healthcare debt is to blame". Multiple other stressors, mental illness, or just downright selfishness may be involved, but it's doubtful. This couple may just have wanted a chosen death with dignity.

The premise of this apparent murder-suicide being linked to the elderly healthcare crisis is merely conjecture and makes for an interesting eye-catching read.

Well I have some questions regarding the response.

1) We really don’t know from the article that the wife chose this death. So while I can follow your logic, until there is evidence SHE chose to die this way, I’m not sure I can call her death a dignity. At most, depending on her health conditions, it was a sympathy murder.

2) I feel that it is better for some to get to chose their way out of this life. It can be dignifying to chose your passing circumstances. But if finances related to medical bills and a lack of financial security were part of the reason the choice was made, I do feel that requires addressing by our society. Most of my generation probably won’t have any retirement at all.

SoCalRN1976 specializes in RN.

I read this this last week. It's heartbreaking in this great country.. we have substandard care for everyone. I read another forum asking shouldn't they be Medicare? I have been an RN Case manager for years.. hospital side. I can assure you Medicare does NOT cover everything. There are so many medications, treatments and care our Medicare doesn't cover. This is why so many seniors are picking up supplement plans. Our own Medicare sucks. Substandard coverage.. if you are hospitalized, or have an expensive medication you are screwed.... there is minimal coverage and medicare often doesn't cover medications...

All we can do is advocate for change.. Something is incredibly wrong with our healthcare system. Starting with the private insurance vector who entirely often dictates coverage for care... these standards are OFTEN set by non medical people on the business side of the insurance. this has to stop..

On 8/16/2019 at 1:25 PM, pr0dr0me said:

Why do they always murder their wives, too?

That is interesting. Seems like it is always the man who does the killing, not the wife.

I wonder if there was a suicide note saying why. Lots of people have bills laying around. These stories always leave me wanting to know more details.

Anyway, for sure medical care is very expensive. Had someone come in lately and say they were thinking of divorce due to health issues. I told them they need to see an attorney before doing anything, someone who can answer their questions RE: Medicaid, bills, etc. Said was going to lose house, truck, boat, etc. Were anxious and just plain mad.

After you have liquified your assets, where does that leave you? There is no way most middle income people can have 280,000 dollars at retirement just for medical bills. I know it won't happen for me.

Leader25 specializes in NICU.

On 8/13/2019 at 9:17 AM, Melissa Mills said:

couple who retired in 2017 at the age of 65 needed $280,000 in savings to cover future healthcare costs such as premiums for doctors and medications. If these elderly individuals also required additional services such as long-term care or assisted living, they would need additional funds to cover these costs.

Now put me on the anxiety,nail biting list, this is so overwhelming,especially when I see and know of non us citizens or non working able bodied ,getting Medicaid,having everything covered,all the stuff my parents are refused.

Devnation specializes in ED, PACU, CM.

On 8/26/2019 at 9:23 AM, Leader25 said:

Now put me on the anxiety,nail biting list, this is so overwhelming,especially when I see and know of non us citizens or non working able bodied ,getting Medicaid,having everything covered,all the stuff my parents are refused.

Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid (except for extremely limited emergency services), and just because a person appears "able-bodied" does not mean they do not have a disability, physical or mental.

It's a damn shame that people feel they have to resort to this. I'm at a loss for words.

Crash_Cart specializes in ER OR LTC Code Blue Trauma Dog.

Two words, Universal Healthcare.

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