Alcoholism and the Elderly

Alcohol is part of many people’s lives, and that includes seniors. For most, it is something to be used in moderation, but for some it becomes a problem that can threaten their health, family relationships, and quality of life. While abuse can occur at any age, it is especially a problem as people age, and with other factors, can combine to cause serious concerns.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 20-30% of people ages 75 to 85 have had drinking problems. Use of illicit drugs, like marijuana and heroin, or overuse of prescription medications can also lead to abuse but are not as common is seniors.

With all those factors, though, it’s easy for medical providers, caregivers, and family members to be confused by symptoms of abuse in seniors. Could it be dementia? diabetes? A team approach is helpful to see how alcoholism could be part of an overall decline in health.

Overlooking this concern, though, is not a good idea. In addition to the alcoholism, it can create more problems such as drug interactions, falls or social isolation. Alcoholics of any age are often very good at hiding their addictions, using little lies that even they believe. “It’s only a few glasses of wine,” or “I can quit anytime.”

Here are two good articles that can help caregivers and family members whose loved ones demonstrate problems with alcohol:

The Hazards of Alcoholism in the Elderly

Substance Abuse and Seniors: What All Caregivers Need to Know

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