When it comes to seniors, abusing alcohol and other substances has been linked to Dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and other adverse health conditions. As people age, alcohol has a more adverse impact on health because alcohol tolerance decreases. For example, a man who could drink a six-pack when he was 40 is going to see much more pronounced physical effects from drinking that volume of alcohol at age 80. The aging body cannot metabolize alcohol as quickly or effectively, leading to a loss of coordination and balance, increased falls and diminished memory.
Furthermore, existing health conditions can be exacerbated by consuming alcohol at older ages.. Alcohol does not mix with most medications. When seniors who take multiple medications drink, at best it can reduce the efficacy of the meds and at worst it can reduce the create a highly toxic, dangerous, situation. Long term alcohol consumption is known to contribute to liver disease, Osteoporosis, Diabetes, and the general degeneration of organs and bodily functions.
When seniors drink to cope with the loss of friends and family, isolation, loneliness, physical impairments, and/or loss of self-worth, it can quickly become a very dangerous slippery slope. An increase in alcohol consumption to mask physical, emotional or mental pain can lead to alcoholism. Seniors are increasingly facing the issue of alcoholism as they pour a drink to dull the pain of any loss or loneliness they may experience.
While it may be easier to monitor seniors who live in supervised environments to keep them from becoming dependent on alcohol, those who age in place are tougher to track, and assist. To begin with, they don’t want to be tracked; they cherish their independence and if they are becoming an alcoholic they believe they are in control of their drinking. The best way to discover if a senior is drinking too much, is to visit regularly and subtlely check on the alcohol in the house and how fast it is being drunk.
In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month, please be sure to research the full affects of alcohol on the aging body. They run from minor issues to severe debilitations and it’s critical to understand the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse.
The staff at LivHOME understands aging, and the reasons why seniors seek the comfort of drink or other substances. That’s why our companion program is helpful to families. We can provide friendship and support that may prevent the loneliness that can lead to substance abuse. For seniors in the throes of substance abuse, our clinicians will assess and guide them to recovery.