The Rise Of Senior Citizen Alcoholism
Alcoholism can affect anyone, even senior citizens. Unfortunately, many older adults do not receive the treatment they deserve due to the social acceptance of their long-term habits. Still, drinking heavily at any age is not normal. Nearly 11% of elderly hospital admissions are related to drug and alcohol issues. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, 20% of cases with seniors admitted to psychiatric hospitals are related to alcohol.
The Danger Of Drinking As You Age
Consuming alcohol and staying healthy as you age is a challenge. As we grow older, our bodies become more susceptible to alcohol’s effects. Factors like chronic health conditions and medications exaggerate the depressant’s abilities. Over the years, an individual’s tolerance declines, and the body is less capable of fighting off toxins. Senior’s who maintain the same drinking habits they once had in their 20s run a significant risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
Drinking even a moderate or infrequent amount of alcohol can jeopardize a senior’s health. As the body ages, it responds to the effects of alcohol sooner than people are accustomed to. After a drink, many older adults show slower reaction times and poor coordination. Their eye movements and information processing begin to lag. Some may have trouble balancing and run a higher risk of falling. According to the National Institute of Aging, having even a small amount of alcohol is dangerous and possibly deadly for seniors.
Alcohol use in seniors is responsible for:
- 30% of suicides
- 50% of drownings
- 40% of crashes
- 40% of burns
- 50% of homicides
- 60% of falls
Since older adults are prone to injury due to weaker bone density, falls and accidents can be lethal. Still, unexpected accidents are not the only consequences of drinking.
Alcohol can make it difficult for medical professionals to treat or identify health problems. The depressant’s ability to dull pain and change the heart and blood vessels are significant factors in why many warning signs for heart attack among seniors are missed.
Alcohol can also worsen or cause conditions like:
- Liver damage
- Immune system disorders
- Brain damage
- High blood pressure
- Memory loss
- Mood disorders
How To Identify A Senior With Alcoholism
Identifying whether a senior is battling alcoholism is no easy feat. The disorder is commonly unnoticed or misdiagnosed by doctors and caregivers. Still, it is possible to distinguish whether or not an elder is dealing with the addiction.
Below are a few common signs of senior alcohol abuse:
- They drink to relax, or forget or manage their depression.
- They drink alcohol quickly.
- They lie about their drinking habits.
- They smell like alcohol.
- They have poor hygiene.
- They hide their alcohol.
- They have a high tolerance.
- Lack of care towards their household, grandchildren, pets, etc.
- They prefer isolation or only activities where alcohol is involved.
- They drink often.
- They have slurred speech.
- They have poor coordination.
- They have had instances of hurting themselves or someone else while drinking.
- They are irritable when not seen drinking.
- They have medical, social, legal, or financial alcohol-related problems.
- They have memory loss.
It is important to emphasize that though many of the common signs of senior citizen alcoholism are similar to other age-related health conditions, there is a distinction. It is up to caregivers and loved ones to distinguish between the two.
Finding Help For Seniors
The senior citizen population is rising. They account for almost 20% of the United States. By 2050 over 22% of Americans are expected to be 65 years old or over. To compare, in 1950 only 8% of people were older than 65. Much like the population, alcohol use among elders is also growing. Nearly 2% of elders have an alcohol use disorder. Loved ones and caretakers must pay special attention to the signs of alcoholism. If you suspect you or your loved one are battling an AUD, reach out for help. Contact a treatment provider today. They are available 24/7 to answer any rehab-related questions that you may have. Take a step towards recovery. Contact a treatment provider today.
Author: Suzette Gomez | Last Edited: October 4, 2021