Alcohol abuse in the elderly is a growing problem, with 10-12 percent of people 65 and over struggling with drinking excessively, including approximately 50 percent of nursing home residents. Statistics indicate that alcohol, through injury, disease, and health complications, puts more elderly people in the hospital than heart attacks!
It is also a widely underreported phenomenon due to factors such as isolation and the shame associated with modern views on alcohol abuse in the elderly. Attitudes towards alcohol were very different when today’s elderly were in younger. Until the 1980s, when various anti-drinking programs and alcohol abuse messages became widespread, the habitual use of alcohol was looked upon much more favorably. Today, alcoholism is no laughing matter, and the elderly, caught between two worlds of past and present, often choose to keep their addictions a secret.
Causes of Alcohol Abuse in the Elderly
There are a number of reasons for an elderly person’s continued dependence upon alcohol or for a new habit being formed. Often, when someone loses their spouse or members of their social circle, which occurs in later years, they become depressed. Because we have to deal with more and more death as we age, this is a significant problem amongst the elderly. And while a grieving person of any age might turn to drinking or drugs to dull the emotional pain, alcohol is still viewed as more socially acceptable than drugs in the senior community (not to mention it may be more accessible), and remains the go-to substance in times of sadness, loneliness, and confusion.
Dr. Steven Ross, in Psychiatry Weekly, explains that the older adults experience physical changes to their bodies, making them more susceptible to alcohol’s negative effects. Since many of them are also taking medications, the possibility of contradictory effects from a negative interaction with alcohol is greatly heightened.Read more: Alcohol Addiction Treatment
How Alcohol Abuse in the Elderly Should Be Handled
Ross also points out that a large percentage of older persons visit their doctors frequently and this is an excellent opportunity for the physician to detect possible alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Once a problem is identified and a dialogue between doctor and patient is established, this can lead to a path towards treatment. It is especially important, says Dr. Ross, that alcohol abuse in the elderly increases the risks of injury, disease, social and financial ruining. Treatment for alcohol abuse in the elderly includes individualized psychotherapy, seeking support from time-tested, reputable groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and other groups and treatment facilities that you can find through recommendations services such as ours. If you know of an elder struggling with an alcohol addiction, it is vitally important that they get help so that we can reduce alcohol abuse in the elderly.
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