Alcohol abuse problems among elderly Americans are generally ignored, overlooked, or misdiagnosed. The symptoms of depression insomnia, mood swings and anxiety can mirror the warning signs of alcoholism. Substance abuse screenings are rarely part of annual physical exams, making it more challenging to detect the early signs of a potential drinking problem.
Studies show that among seniors that are 60 to 94 years old, a significant number of them depend on a daily intake of alcohol. Around 62 percent of seniors drink alcohol in general every day. However, heavy drinking of more than two drinks per day was found in 13 percent of men and 2 percent of women. A rising number of hospital visits for elderly people are alcohol related, generally from slip and fall accidents. The current recommendation for alcohol consumption in those over the age of 65 is no more than two standard drinks per day.
Medical experts usually separate elderly alcohol abusers into two groups, early onset and late onset alcoholics. Early onset alcoholics are those that have struggled with alcohol abuse their entire lives and either never received treatment or have relapsed. They may already be struggling with alcohol-related illnesses and may have a family history of alcoholism. Late onset alcoholism usually develops in seniors after stressful life events like retirement or grief after losing a spouse. They turn to alcohol as a way to deal with the changes associated with aging.
Alcohol affects elderly adults in different and more significant ways than in younger adults. Because of the loss of lean body mass, seniors have a lower tolerance to alcohol. Also, since many aging adults are taking medication for chronic conditions or to manage illnesses, there can be an adverse reaction between the drinking and the pills. Seniors are also at a greater risk of being dehydrated, further affecting how alcohol impairs them. Alcohol can also have a significant effect on an elderly persons senses as they are often diminished due to age and illness. Consuming alcohol also increases high blood pressure, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver.
Family caregivers are often the first to notice patterns of alcohol abuse in their aging relatives. However, it is easy to mistake the warning signs as simply the result of age-related conditions. Common signs of abuse include drinking to cope with problems, lying about the number of drinks consumed, mixing alcohol with medication, hiding alcohol from family members, frequent signs of drunkenness and irritability when sober. Family caregivers should also keep an eye out for an increase in drinking after the elderly adult has gone through a traumatic event.
Its important that family caregivers look for signs of alcoholism in their elderly loved ones so they can get the help they need. Without treatment, alcoholism in seniors can lead to a number of physical and mental problems.
If you or an aging family member are considering professional caregiver services in Garden City, NY, please call the caring staff at A Gentle Touch Senior Home and Health Care at 631-647-7622 today.