GENERIC: police, crime scene tape

(CBS NEWS) -- A sheriff's department in Washington state shared a story about an elderly man who killed his ailing wife and then himself, apparently because they did not have enough money to pay for medical care. The devastating story was shared on the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office Facebook page and has gone viral. 

A 77-year-old man called 911 and told the dispatcher, "I'm going to kill myself," according to the sheriff's department. He indicated he had prepared a note with instructions and the dispatcher tried to keep him on the line, with no success. The man disconnected the call, and when deputies arrived at the house, they sent a robot mounted camera inside.

Both the man and his wife were found dead by gunshot wounds. Detectives are investigating it as a likely murder-suicide.

"Several notes were left citing severe ongoing medical problems with the wife and expressing concerns that the couple did not have sufficient resources to pay for medical care," the sheriffs department's post reads. "Next of kin information was left in a note and detectives are working with out of state law enforcement to notify the next of kin."

The identity of the couple has not been released. Their two dogs were brought to the Human Society for care. Several firearms were also impounded.

"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, according to the post. "Help is always available with a call to 9-1-1."

Americans spend more on health care than citizens of any other country, and that gap is projected to widen. Health care spending is expected to consume almost 20% of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2027, according to a recent estimate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

Suicide rates have increased among all age groups in the U.S. between 2008 and 2017, including those age 65 and over.

How to get help for yourself or a loved one

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or thinking about suicide, talk to someone who can help, such as a trusted loved one, your doctor, your licensed mental health professional if you already have one, or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

If you believe your loved one or friend is at risk of suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get the person to seek help from a doctor or the nearest hospital emergency department or dial 911. It's important to remove access to firearms, medications, or any other potential tools they might use to harm themselves.

For immediate help if you are in a crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.

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