Addressing Alcoholism and Addiction in the Aging Population

The Arbors Blog
Posted by The Arbors on Jun 1, 2018 3:30:00 PM

Glass of alcohol on counter representing alcoholism and addiction in aging adultsIn the early years of life, your children depended on you for almost everything. Your days were filled with running them to practices, lessons, making their dinner and watching them grow. As they become adults and grow their own families – your relationship changes. They will always call you “mom” but you are no longer their 24/7 support system. You may be uncertain of what to do with your new lifestyle and feel an empty void. Unsure of how to fill this void, senior adults can become depressed and lonely. They may turn to alcohol or prescription drugs for a quick fix to cure their loneliness.

Alcohol and drug abuse is often overlooked in the elderly population. The signs look different in seniors than they do in the younger population. Senior adults are more likely to live alone and become isolated – making it easier for them to hide their problems. How can you help your senior loved one avoid alcoholism and addiction? Here are some warning signs to look for and how you can help.

Signs of Alcoholism to Look For

It can be easy to miss certain cues or signs that your senior parent has a drinking problem. When visiting your loved one, pay close attention to these different signs:

  • Slurred speech or smell of alcohol on their breath.
  • Multiple empty liquor or beer bottles around the house.
  • Excessive drinking before, during or after a meal.
  • Loss of intertest in their hobbies they once loved doing.

If your loved one is showing any of these signs, talk with your family members. Come up with a plan of how you will talk with your loved one about these concerns. It’s important to talk with your parent in an environment they feel comfortable in, so you don’t make them feel threatened. You can also talk with your parent’s physician about your concerns. They may have resources available for you to use to help guide the conversation and get your senior loved one help.

Prescription Drugs in Senior Adults

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 94 percent of people ages 75 to 84 are taking a prescription medication. It’s likely that your senior parent is taking not just one, but multiple prescription drugs. The more medications they take, the more likely they are to increase the risk of having a drug overdose or becoming addicted to their medications.

Be aware of these behaviors in your senior parent that may indicate they’re abusing prescription drugs:

  • Getting the same prescription from two different doctors.
  • Acting defensive when you ask about their medications.
  • Taking more medicine than instructed on the label.
  • Becoming angry or withdrawn in situations they are usually calm in.

Your parent may see different doctors for their health issues. If each doctor prescribes a medication for them to take, it adds up quickly. To help prevent them from being over medicated, create a list of each medication they’re taking. Have them bring it with to every doctor appointment, so their doctors are aware of other medications they’re taking. Speak with their doctor about the dosage of each medication. Senior adults should be given lower drug doses. You can also help your parent sort out their medications each week, so they’re not taking more than they need to.

Senior substance abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs is often misdiagnosed due to the lack of knowledge with the general population, hurried doctor visits and healthcare providers overlooking the issue. The lack of attention to alcoholism and abuse of prescription drugs in the aging population also happens from shame with family members. Many adult children are ashamed of their parent’s problem and choose to ignore it – rather than addressing the issue.

Rather than ignoring the problem your loved one may be facing, take the time to find them help and resources to address their alcoholism or drug abuse. Does this sound like your loved one? Read our eBook, “Is it Depression?” to learn more.

Is your parent depressed? learn how to identify and address depression in aging adults with this free guide

Topics: Assisted Living, Memory Care