Alcoholism Among Seniors and Older Adults
A national survey conducted in 2008 discovered that 40 percent of adults aged 65 and older consume alcohol. Alcohol and prescription drug-related problems among adults 60 and older has been deemed one of the fastest growing health problems the country is being faced by. However, the problem still remains underestimated, under-identified, under-diagnosed, and under-treated. As a result, thousands of older adults and seniors suffering from alcohol abuse treatment fare being left untreated. Healthcare providers have the tendency to overlook substance use problems and abuse of alcoholism in older people, often mistaking the symptoms of substance abuse with depression, dementia, and other health issues. Unfortunately, older adults are at higher risk for a variety of health issues, especially those who meet the following criteria:
- Take certain prescription medications
- Have pre-existing health problems
- Participate in heavy drinking
There are special considerations for seniors and older adults who drink which includes:
- Increased Sensitivity to Alcohol
As one ages, their bodies tolerance for alcohol declines. Older adults and seniors have the tendency to experience and develop the effects of alcoholism quicker as the age than when they were younger. As a result, older adults and seniors are at higher risk for falling, car crashes, and other unintentional injuries which are a result of drinking.
- Increased Risk for Health Issues
Older adults and seniors are at greater risks for developing certain health problems especially if they drink alcohol heavily. Heavy alcohol consumption in older adults and seniors can worsen health problems such as :Diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart complications, liver problems, osteoporosis, problems with memory, and mood disorders.
- Bad Interactions With Prescription Drugs
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications, in addition to some herbal remedies, can be dangerous, and deadly in some cases when mixed with alcohol. Medications which don’t generally interact well with alcohol includes but are not limited to:
- Cold medicine
- Allergy medicine
- Sleeping pills
- Prescription painkiller medications
- Anxiety or depression medications
Drinking Guideline for Older Adults and Seniors
Although alcohol can increase risks in older adults and seniors, there are recommended guidelines for those who do decide to drink. Adults who are aged 65 and older that are healthy and are not taking any medications should limit their drinking to the following:
- No more than three drinks on any given day
- No more than seven drinks on a weekly basis
Going over these recommended amounts puts older adults at risk for serious alcohol-related problems. If you have a pre-existing health problem or condition and/or take certain medications such as the ones listed above, you should drink less than the recommended amount or not drink at all.
Recognizing Alcoholism In Seniors and Older Adults
It can often be difficult to detect alcohol abuse and alcoholism in older adults, the symptoms associated with substance use issues are often mistaken for health related-issues generally incurred by older people. Older people are more likely to hide their substance use and are less likely to seek professional help or medical attention. Knowing the stages of alcoholism can decrease the chances of developing chronic alcoholism dramatically. In addition, many of the family members of older adults with substance use issues, especially their adult children tend to live in denial or are ashamed of their loved one’s problem and opt not to address the issue. the following are findings that often suggest problem drinking in older adults and seniors:
- Cognitive decline
- Deficit in self-care
- Non-adherence with appointments for doctors visits and treatments
- Unstable or lack of control over hypertension
- Experiencing frequent accidents, injuries, and/or falls
- More frequent visits to the emergency room
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Unexpected episodes of delirium
- Estrangement and isolation from family members
- Frequently smelling of alcohol on the breath and in clothing
- Consuming alcohol in addition to prescription medications
- Poor hygiene
- Lapses in memory
- Fluctuations in appetite
Alcohol Abuse Treatment for Seniors and Older Adults
Research has shown that seniors and older adults who attend elder-specific treatment programs have higher completion rates than mixed age treatment programs. Since older adults have higher risks as a result of substance abuse, treatment should be targeted to the patient’s age group. However, it is recommended for older adults and seniors suffering from alcohol abuse or alcoholism successfully complete a detoxification program, inpatient treatment, outpatient-therapy, counseling, and community-based groups.
A reliable social network can be effective in helping the elderly recover from alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Older adults and seniors in alcohol abuse treatment should also seek a program which specializes beyond providing addiction medicine, older individuals are more susceptible for nutritional deficiencies which should be accommodated during treatment. It is vital for older adults and seniors to participate in aftercare programs upon completion of treatment, especially if they live alone. Always keep in mind older adults require specialized treatment for alcoholism, it is essential to enroll in treatment which caters to the your unique needs.
If you suspect that you or an older adult may be misusing alcohol and or drugs, now is the time to step in and encourage them to seek professional help. Harbor Village provides treatment services to clients both young and old, to learn more on how to get started with alcohol abuse treatment at our facilities call us now at (855) 767-8285.