Elderly couple’s apparent suicide note: Can’t afford health care

The husband called 911 and told the dispatcher, “We will be in the front bedroom.”

By Marisa Iati / The Washington Post

A Washington state couple whom authorities believe died by murder-suicide reportedly left several notes expressing worry that they could not afford treatment for the wife’s severe medical issues.

The husband, 77, called 911 shortly before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and told the dispatcher that he planned to shoot himself, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. The man said he had written a note for the sheriff with information and instructions.

The dispatcher tried to keep the caller on the phone, according to authorities, but the man said, “We will be in the front bedroom” and hung up.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house near Ferndale about 15 minutes later and tried to contact the residents with a phone and a megaphone for about an hour, authorities said. They said deputies then used a robot-mounted camera and saw the couple, who were dead from gunshot wounds.

The couple has been identified as Brian S. Jones and Patricia A. Whitney-Jones, 76, Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel told The Washington Post. Jones shot his wife once in the head, then himself three times, Goldfogel said.

Authorities said they impounded several guns from the home and brought two dogs to the Humane Society for care.

“It is very tragic that one of our senior citizens would find himself in such desperate circumstances where he felt murder and suicide were the only option,” Sheriff Bill Elfo said in a statement. “Help is always available with a call to 9-1-1.”

Health-care spending in the United States has been increasing for decades, and costs for senior citizens are higher than those for citizens as a whole, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

People ages 65 and older spent an average of $18,424 on medical care in 2010 – five times the spending per child and three times the spending per working-age person, a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says.

Roughly 65% of senior citizens’ medical costs are paid for through government services such as Medicare, which covers almost all seniors, and Medicaid, which covers low-income people and families. Health-care expenses more than double between ages 70 and 90.

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