An alarming trend in the elderly community has Santa Clara County issuing a warning and asking for help.
The county District Attorney's Office says the number of murder-suicides among elderly couples is on the rise. The office has notified at least 10 major elder care groups in the Bay Area about the findings so elder care professionals can keep an eye on patients who may be prone to violence.
Last July, at a home in Saratoga, an 81-year-old former Seagate executive reportedly shot and killed his wife before turning the gun on himself. It's the type of incident county officials say is becoming more common.
"It’s the fourth year in a row that we had an elder murder-suicide involving an elderly couple," said Cindy Hendrickson, assistant district attorney. "Even though it’s a small number statistically, it’s a huge number in terms of the human cost."
There have been two such murder-suicides so far this year.
It has the DA’s office so concerned that it has sent letters to several local health care organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Association. That organization told NBC Bay Area there are some red flags to watch for.
"Withdrawing from who they are, change in mood, change in behavior or personality, someone who has always been easy going easily getting frustrated," said Claire Day of the Alzheimer’s Association, Northern California and Northern Nevada. "When you see those signs, you should talk about them."
According to the county, there’s also a similar pattern of behavior in most of the cases they’ve seen.
"Most of the perpetrators left notes, and in those notes, they evidenced feelings of despair," Hendrickson said.
Another disturbing finding from the county report: This year’s death toll for murder-suicides is more than the average in Santa Clara County over the past 22 years.