Alcohol dependency can occur at any time in a person’s life. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know when an elderly loved one is struggling with their use of alcohol. Despite the images portrayed of young people drinking to excess, the Center for Disease Control reports that adults over the age of 65 are more likely to binge drink than any other age group. Whether the issue is an increase in alcohol use, or prescription medication interactions with alcohol, there are signs present that suggest alcohol dependency among your elderly loved one.
When a Loved One is Drinking to Excess
If you have an elderly loved one who reaches for alcohol to calm down, or has several drinks during a meal, they may be drinking to excess. While a few drinks out to dinner every once in awhile isn’t likely a problem, a few drinks every night to relax usually is. As people get older, most become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. If you notice that your loved one drinks an alcoholic drink quickly to feel the effects, alcohol dependency is likely.
Other signs of alcohol abuse include:
- an irritable nature after not drinking alcohol for a period of time, sometimes only a few hours
- medical problems are exacerbated by alcohol use, yet your loved one doesn’t stop drinking
- injuries occur while drinking to excess
- lying to you about the amount of alcohol being consumed on a regular basis
Alcoholism wreaks havoc on the body over time. While the effects may not be felt right away when a person is younger, habitual alcohol abuse causes a variety of health problems. Liver damage is often a big issue for those who have been alcoholics most of their lives, as well as problems with cognition. When you believe that a loved one has become dependent on alcohol, it’s time to start with an honest discussion about your concerns.
Talking About Alcohol Dependency is Hard
It isn’t easy to talk to a loved one when you feel they may have a problem with alcohol dependency, especially when the loved one is a parent. When you want to help, you have to start with an open conversation about what you have been observing. While you don’t want your loved one put on the defensive right away, be clear about your feelings and what you have noticed. There may be a reason that your loved one has turned to alcohol that they are ready to talk about with you. Make room for the conversation to happen, simply by letting your loved one know that you are worried about their needs.
Consider the Reasons Behind the Alcohol Dependency
Social isolation, loss, or financial worries are three major reasons an older individual may turn to alcohol in order to cope with life. If a loved one has recently lost a spouse or has run into money problems, you may notice an increase in their alcohol consumption. Social isolation from a loss of mobility or the ability to drive can lead to alcohol use. Look for the cause of the rise in alcohol consumption and you may be able to help decrease the alcohol abuse.
Talk with Your Loved One’s Primary Care Doctor
There are times when your loved one isn’t going to be open to having a discussion about their alcohol use. If your loved one is suffering medical issues or you are worried about their safety because of alcohol use, calling their primary care physician to voice your concerns is an option. While you may not be able to have a discussion with the doctor for privacy reasons, you can state your concerns confidentially.
A problem providers often have with trying to diagnose alcohol dependency, especially in older women, is the symptoms of alcohol dependency can mimic the symptoms that come with normal aging. Older women tend to have less financial resources than older men, and tend to feel more stigmatized when discussing their use of alcohol. Dependency on alcohol is prevalent among older women, but the problem often goes undiagnosed from a lack of understanding of the symptoms to look out for.
If you are concerned about the drinking habits of an elderly loved one, it’s time to consider how safe they are at home. If the individual lives at home alone, excessive alcohol consumption can put them at high risk for injuries. In addition, if the person is taking a number of prescription medications, alcohol can greatly interfere. Display your concern by starting a conversation about your observations. If the conversation goes nowhere, have a professional physician assess your loved one if possible. Alcohol dependency is prevalent among the elderly population and good treatment can help prevent future health problems or injuries.