While seniors are prone to a number of different health issues, one of the most serious conditions that is impacting seniors today is actually alcoholism. This is not one of the more common issues that the general public tends to associate with seniors, which is why it is so dangerous. Many family members and loved ones don't expect seniors to develop issues with alcohol later on in life, so they may miss some of the more pertinent signs of a developing issue.
Alcoholism is a very real and very dangerous issue in the senior community and the fact that this issue often flies under the radar only makes it all the more dangerous. While it is completely normal for seniors to enjoy alcoholic beverages safely and responsibly, it is a whole different issue when seniors begin to abuse alcohol.
While there are some seniors who have battled alcoholism their entire lives there are many who actually suffer from what is known as late onset alcoholism. This is a form of alcoholism that doesn't develop until an individual is much older. Instead of being a genetic issue like most early-onset alcoholism, this type of addiction develops due to outside stimulants or challenges that encourage a person to start drinking alcohol in excess, therefore leading to a problem with alcoholism.
For example, an individual can have no issues with alcohol for decades and then they may lose their spouse. This can be a very traumatic experience for any older adult, and it may cause them to rely on alcohol in a regular pattern. This is a prime example of what happens to many seniors who suffer from late onset alcoholism.
Late onset alcoholism has been a growing issue and one that has sparked a great deal of debate. There are some assisted living communities that actually provide alcohol to their residents, and it has sparked a debate on whether or not this is contributing to the issue. In fact, some studies have found that a majority of seniors living in these types of communities consume alcohol regularly.
So, how do family members and loved ones tell if their senior is consuming alcohol in a safe manner or if they are in danger of developing alcoholism?
One of the main ways in which family members and loved ones can start to spot issues in seniors who may be developing alcohol is to look for changes in their senior's behavior and their attitude towards alcohol.
Change is one of the biggest indicators of a problem with alcohol. One of the first warning signs to look for is a change in the way that seniors drink or treat alcohol. If a senior who was once only a casual drinker starts drinking to feel better, to cope with a bad situation or in order to sleep, this is a serious change in the way that they treat alcohol. This is one of the first signs that someone is developing a problem with alcohol, because it shows signs that they are changing their relationship with alcohol.
There are other noticeable signs that can indicate a problem as well. This may include a senior's tendency to drink alone instead of socially. Family members and loved ones may notice the signs that their senior has been drinking in excess by themselves. Another sign of course is seeing the senior abuse alcohol and drink larger amounts than normal either in social settings or by themselves. Again, changes in their behavior are some of the most noticeable indications of a problem.
Other warning signs may include:
- Repeated alcohol use in situations where it is hazardous to the senior, such as drinking and driving.
- Situations where alcohol use renders the senior unable to meet certain obligations.
- Repeated legal issues stemming from alcohol abuse.
- Social issues related to alcohol use.
- Signs of withdrawal related to alcohol use.
- A pattern of increasing frequency and amount of alcohol use.
- Seniors who express interest in cutting back their alcohol use, but find they are unable to do so.
It is important for family members to step in at the first sign of a problem with alcohol. The earlier seniors are able to get help, the better. What many seniors don't realize is that as they age, their bodies become more and more vulnerable to some of the side effects of alcohol abuse, and they can ultimately end up doing much more harm than they realize.
It is also important to note that seniors who are taking certain medications or undergoing different medical treatments while abusing alcohol, may be putting themselves at risk for serious or fatal health issues. Seniors who are taking prescription medications should try to avoid alcohol and adhere to the guidelines put in place on the front of their prescription.
Helping Seniors Overcome Alcohol Addiction
Helping a senior realize they have an issue with alcohol can be a major challenge. Some seniors are not willing to admit that they have a problem with alcohol. They may be ashamed, embarrassed, unaware or in denial. However, admitting there is a problem is only half of the battle.
It can be very difficult for any person, particularly an older adult to overcome a dependence on alcohol. Treatment may need to be rather severe or intensive in order to help the senior overcome their addiction. For some seniors, this may be as simple as having a loved one or caregiver step in to monitor their alcohol use or to remove alcohol completely from their homes. Other seniors may have developed a far more serious addiction.
While certain steps can be taken to remove alcohol from the senior's surroundings, many times, acts like this are not enough. Family members who are worried about a serious problem developing, should seek professional treatment right away in order to help their loved one get the assistance they need to overcome their alcohol dependence and regain their overall quality of life.