We often underestimate it, but elder substance abuse is a very real possibility. Many factors contribute to this issue being under-diagnosed — limited research data, symptoms that mimic old-age ailments, and hurried doctor visits are a few. Yet, it is important to recognize this growing problem. What are the causes and signs? How do you avoid — or help a loved one — avoid becoming addicted? How can you assist seniors who abuse substances? In this article, we will briefly go over those questions. Dependency on alcohol, or any other substance, is detrimental to the senior and hard on their family.
According to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, 17% of adults over the age of 65 are or have been addicted to drugs or alcohol, and they are classified into two categories: those who have previously struggled with addiction and are now 65 and those who have “late onset” since turning 65. Some of the causes of elder addiction are changes from retirement, grieving the death of a spouse or family member, loss of income, family conflict, relocation to a nursing home, mental/physical health decline, and more recently, isolation or loneliness. Seniors struggling with these life circumstances are not always facing an inevitable addiction, but it does mean they may be more likely to abuse certain substances. If you have an older family member who is struggling with these things, make sure to be aware and have frequent conversations and visits to encourage them and get a picture of how they are doing.
Common signs of addiction in the elderly include but are not limited to memory problems, irritability, pain, lack of interest, random bruises, poor sleeping habits, loss of connection with loved ones, and failure of good hygiene. Many of these symptoms are similar to the ailments we all experience with age, causing doctors to overlook a growing problem in a patient’s life.
If your elderly family member has a history of addiction, whether in their family or their own life, it is important to limit access to addictive substances. One of the most dangerous drugs for seniors is Benzodiazepines, a drug used to treat anxiety. Sadly, they are extremely addictive and are prescribed often. If possible, try to avoid Benzodiazepines prescriptions and talk to the doctor about alternatives. Treatment for elder substance abuse is not impossible. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recommends individual counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, medical/psychiatric care, and family assistance as ways to help. There are also other group or community programs that boost addiction accountability. Careful attention and approach are needed. Find treatment right away through your doctor or search online for local treatment centers that help individuals over the age of 65 so they can get the resources they need during recovery.
Seniors recovering from addiction will need to be watched and cared for at times. And constant daily contact from you or others may prevent a loved one from falling into addiction. This is where a Home Care Service can help. A professional company with a trusted reputation, Griswold Home Care of Greater Orlando assists seniors with daily care needs such as hygiene and light housekeeping. Griswold refers specially trained and experienced caregivers who treat your loved one with dignity and respect. They understand you want the best for your family. Contact them to learn more today!