Alcohol Use in Older Adults
It’s a familiar story: many people have a grandfather who has always enjoyed his liquor – as such, the family does not see an increase in his drinking as problematic. It’s also common for older adults to begin drinking more heavily in the wake of a loss; for example, a grandmother who starts having a drink each night to help her sleep after the death of her husband. Friends, family, and healthcare professionals often overlook their concerns about drinking in older adults. Sometimes, problems related to alcohol use are mistaken for symptoms of aging – for example, issues with balance. This results in individuals writing off the idea of alcohol rehab for older adults, simply because they may not see that their loved one has a problem.
Research shows that alcohol affects older adults differently than it would have in their younger days. They may have the same drinking habits, but the body is impacted by them in a completely new way. It is not uncommon for elderly people to feel a “high” of drinking without increasing the amount of alcohol consumed, and this can result in a higher likelihood of accidents, such as falls and car crashes. Older women are more sensitive to these effects than their male counterparts. Unfortunately, alcohol poses many serious threats for elderly people.
Safety and Alcohol
Everyone who consumes alcohol is at risk of impaired judgement, loss of coordination, and delayed reaction times. This trifecta of effects can be especially devastating for members of the older population, whose bones break more easily; they often suffer hip or arm fractures as a result of falls that may only bruise younger people.
These risks increase when a person is behind the wheel. Older adults already experience slowed reaction times while in traffic, and this effect is compounded for those who have been drinking. Alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of crashes, and older drivers are more likely to be seriously injured in car accidents. It is vital to seek alcohol rehab for older adults, especially if they insist on driving after drinking.
Side Effects of Prolonged Alcohol Consumption
Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time can lead to several health problems, including certain types of cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders, and lasting brain damage. Existing conditions such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes may be exacerbated by habitual or heavy alcohol consumption.
Additionally, alcohol use can camouflage severe medical problems, making it difficult for doctors to identify health issues before they become serious. A key example of this is that alcohol changes the heart and blood vessels, which may dull pain that could warn doctors of an impending heart attack. This issue goes both ways – symptoms associated with alcohol consumption could be mixed up with health problems that commonly affect the elderly. For example, alcohol may cause older adults to become confused or forgetful, which may result in a mistaken diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alcohol Rehab for Older Adults
Older adults require a different approach to treatment than their younger counterparts. Research shows that individuals experience improved outcomes when treated among their peers: people who are similar to them. This means that seeking out a program specifically for adults over the age of 55 can make a significant difference in your loved one’s recovery.
Addiction treatment should occur in an accredited facility that makes use of evidence-based treatment modalities. These include individual and group therapy sessions, inpatient detox, 12-Step meetings, and relapse prevention programming. A well-rounded, fully individualized approach to treatment is important for each person entering an inpatient facility for an alcohol use disorder.
Additionally, older adults benefit significantly from therapies that address the issues that led to their substance use. This is why Pine Grove and other centers offer comprehensive care for mood disorders, trauma, grief and loss, and other diagnoses. By getting to the core of one’s addiction, it is possible to resolve past issues and create a plan for healthier coping in the future.
Older adults frequently require support for existing health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services is a part of Forrest General, a 512-bed hospital and Level II trauma center. As such, we are able to offer 24/7 nursing care and a multidisciplinary staff of addiction specialists, psychiatrists, therapists, nurse practitioners, and dieticians.
Treatment for Alcoholism in Mississippi
If you have an older loved one who is addicted to alcohol, there is hope. Through our nationally renowned Legacy Program, Pine Grove provides comprehensive treatment to adults over the age of 55. To learn more about how we tailor treatment to the needs of older adults, contact us today.