Aging and addiction can be an extremely difficult combination to treat, both for seniors suffering from the illness and for their loved ones. Addiction treatment for seniors requires special care and consideration because of the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that go along with aging. This guide will help you understand aging and addiction as well as offer you tips on how to recognize alcoholism in seniors, how to approach treatment from both sides, and what types of recovery programs might work best, etc.
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8.7% of Americans aged 55+ years are living with alcoholism. It is also true that some people remain physically dependent on alcohol after withdrawal even after long periods of abstinence or heavy consumption of other drugs. Treatment with medications may not be successful for all older adults with alcoholism, but it does help many seniors get sober. Seeking treatment earlier in life has been shown to lessen the severity of some consequences that come from drinking alcohol over a long period such as liver disease or esophageal cancer, so it’s always better to get treatment before you need it rather than waiting until you’re in dire straits.
It is estimated that there are about 1 million people aged 65 years or older who abuse alcohol or illicit drugs. However, many seniors avoid treatment for their substance use disorders because they believe age is a barrier to recovery. Elderly individuals who receive proper treatment from qualified medical professionals, however, can live happier, healthier lives with less stress on the physical body. Furthermore, mental functioning is improved by sobriety.
Along with physical well-being, life satisfaction increases substantially when addiction is treated. In order to help elderly clients, overcome addiction, it’s important to have an understanding of their unique circumstances and attitudes towards life. Many seniors tend to be isolated from society in general, which makes the onset of drug use all too easy. They also have fewer financial resources at this stage in life, so there may be economic pressures motivating them as well.
The level of intensity of their substance abuse, if the addiction is long-term, or if they are addicted to a drug. The older they get, the more likely they will need treatment that focuses on their physical health as well as their psychological health. They also have a higher risk of developing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit an addiction due to physiological changes in the brain.
Additional research has shown that people who are 65 years old or older may have a lower threshold for addictive substances than younger adults and therefore have less chance of recovering from addiction without professional help. Studies have found that those with psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety are at a higher risk of using drugs because it provides relief from these illnesses.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses among seniors and can lead to feelings of hopelessness which can make them more susceptible to becoming addicted. Older individuals’ levels of pain medication tolerance (meaning how much medication it takes for them to feel relief) often increase over time due to frequent use, which leads some seniors down the path toward addiction by seeking out alternative ways to manage pain such as alcohol or other illicit drugs.
If your loved one is fighting alcohol addiction, there are some things you can do to help at home. Asking them questions such as why they drink or what is bothering them may help give the person an outlet to voice their thoughts without the risk of harming themselves. If they are on medications, it would be a good idea to find out what substance is triggering the alcoholism in seniors, so that it can be taken out of their treatment regimen. They could also benefit from seeking counseling so that their underlying issues can be uncovered.
Family members of the elderly must deal with additional challenges when it comes to addiction. The biggest challenge is that as adults age, they often have significantly more complex medical needs. As a result, their caretakers may need to find time to take care of their loved one’s medical needs before they can spend any time dealing with substance abuse. Additionally, those who are caring for an addicted senior may be concerned about how they will manage financially in order to cover the costs of addiction treatment. Elders also face being physically or mentally unable to participate in counseling programs or 12-step meetings on their own, so caregivers need to carefully consider what approach would work best for their loved one’s individual situation.
With the aging population steadily increasing, more and up-to-date information is needed on how to address alcoholism in seniors. Fortunately, there are many online groups that offer valuable resources specifically tailored to addiction in older adults. From testimonials of those who have successfully dealt with their addictions, to discussions about the specific types of treatment that work best with this demographic, these online communities can be an excellent place to find support and resources. The groups offer helpful tips on topics such as withdrawal and relapse prevention where seniors can find assistance if their doctors refuse to prescribe medication or write prescriptions for strong medications.
Do you have an elderly relative or loved one struggling with alcoholism at home? Don’t let the quality of their lives deteriorate as you watch. At North Jersey Rehabs, we have skilled professionals with experience in handling elderly patients with alcohol and drug addiction problems. Contact us today to find out how we can help!
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