Alcohol dates back to Ancient Greece, who used wine as part of religious rituals. Although the Greeks imbibed regularly, they also had strict rules encouraging moderate drinking. Fast-forward to the 21st century and you’ll still find wine used in religious rituals, but it’s also heavily integrated into the social lives of the majority of adults.
Because alcohol is so embedded into the culture of daily life, it can often be hard to tell when the line has been crossed between social drinking and alcoholism. So how can you spot the signs of elderly alcohol abuse? Since October is Liver Awareness Month, we think it’s important to know how to recognize alcoholism signs and know how to act on them in order to keep your liver--and the rest of your body--in tip-top shape.
Facts About Alcohol Abuse In The Elderly
According to the Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation, substance abuse issues, including prescription pill misuse, affects 17 percent of people over the age of 60, and that number is expected to double by 2020. The Foundation has found that “more people are living longer and more of them are abusing drugs and alcohol in their later years,” and refusing to get help because they think it’s too late to change.
The Centers for Disease Control define excessive drinking as 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. Long-term health risks of alcohol abuse in the elderly, include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer and liver disease. Liver dysfunction can be furthered from drinking alcohol and taking over-the-counter or prescription pills with acetaminophen in them.
It’s possible to have a daily drinking habit without having a drinking problem. But when alcohol begins to disrupt your daily life and relationships with loved ones, it’s a sign of elderly alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism signs include:
- Hiding or lying about your drinking to friends and loved ones
- Drinking as an automatic response to bad news or upsetting feelings
- Not being able to control the amount of alcohol you are consuming
- Neglecting your daily responsibilities, whether at home or at work
- Feeling isolated and alone from loved ones
- Having tried to stop drinking in the past and failed
The important thing to remember about addiction is that the addict typically will not accept help to change their life until they are ready; they cannot be pushed into no longer drinking. If you are close to someone who you believe to show alcoholism signs and they refuse to get help, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get help. There are support programs available for family members and friends of alcoholics to find positive ways to cope with the addiction.
How to Handle Elderly Alcohol Abuse
Once your loved one has accepted the fact that they need help to deal with their alcohol addiction, seeking out a professional course of treatment is recommended. Alcohol can actually be one of the most painful withdrawal processes, with extreme dehydration leading to seizures and even death. It’s best to withdraw from alcohol under the care of a physician, but there is also an emotional component that has to be addressed during recovery to lower the risk of relapse.
While it might be hard, making lifestyle changes now can lead to greater rewards in the future. Even if you do not currently have an addiction to alcohol, taking stock of your health and making necessary adjustments can have a big effect down the road. In addition to cutting back on alcohol and improving your health through diet and exercise, investing in a Medical Guardian medical alert device can help you remain connected to help should you ever experience a health emergency at home.