Regardless of gender, background, nationality, or age, a person can develop a drinking problem at any time. This can happen from various sources. Someone might want a glass or two of wine before they head to bed, while others might have been social drinkers all their life. While these are normal ways to engage in libations from time to time, certain people can overdo it and develop a drinking problem over time. This is more serious in seniors, because of the way their body functions when in the presence of alcohol. While it’s okay for seniors to have a drink once in a while, it’s best they are watched over by either their friends and family or by the skilled individuals in various assisted living communities.
Facts about Alcoholism in Seniors
The older a person is, the more harmful the effects of heavy alcoholism are in that person. Sadly, this is a continuous problem among seniors across the country and in other parts of the world. Here are some facts about seniors’ struggles with alcoholism.
- Currently, around 2.5 million seniors have been identified as having a substance abuse problem (whether it be alcohol or drugs).
- Around fifty percent of nursing home seniors have admitted to having alcohol related problems and struggles.
- Nearly eleven percent of senior admissions into hospitalized care can be traced back to over consumption of alcohol (either caused by recent consumption or an ongoing history). A significant number of these hospital visits are heart and liver problems.
It is unfortunate that this issue is an ongoing one, especially since the number of retiring seniors is increasing in the past few years. Despite the growing numbers, awareness for addressing this senior health issue is alarmingly low. Which is why watching for alcohol abuse is an issue in most independent and assisted living communities.
Why do Some Seniors Turn to Drinking?
The reason why over consumption of alcohol is a problem among seniors is varied. As a person grows older, they experienced a number of life changes that can cause them to drink alcohol in order to ease the pain or forget about their problems altogether.
Several common life events and situations could be things like the following:
- Empty nest syndrome (the event when a senior’s children grow up and leave the house)
- Loss of friends and family due to them moving away, health issues, or untimely death
- Ongoing health conditions (illnesses like diabetes, heart and lung complications, hearing loss, etc. )
- Depression due to moving/downsizing one’s own living spaces.
- Increased boredom/lack of socialization due to older age.
All types of consumable alcohol are labeled as a depressant, which is a substance that affects the brain’s neurotransmitters. As a result, a person’s behavior and emotions can drastically change. Depending on the person, they may be more aggressive or outgoing. Because of this, a senior’s over consumption of alcohol can leave a negative impact on not only themselves but their friends, family, and those around them (this has a bigger impact if they’re living in assisted living communities or other senior residences).
How Does Alcohol Affect a Senior’s Body?
Alcohol intake can be good as it can help increase bone density (in senior women), protect/strengthen the vascular system, and even help protect against certain behavioral issues. A normal senior can take in around an ounce of pure alcohol daily (some senior men can take in around two ounces). This means that a senior (regardless if they are living on their own or in independent or assisted living communities) is able to tolerate the alcohol content of a can of beer, a glass of wine, or small amounts of certain spirits. The reason for these amounts is because of how a senior metabolizes alcohol in their body.
However, like any other over consumption of substances (like caffeine or drug-related substances), the body can be negatively affected by alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse can leave a large negative impact on a senior’s brain activity and function. A senior can experience situations like blackouts, memory lapses, impaired movement that can lead to accidents, and poor judgment. While these experiences and many other impairments can be experienced in all stages of life, it is more serious when it occurs in seniors. It is because a senior’s mental health and brain function is more sensitive in this stage in life.
Over consumption of alcohol affects the heart as well. A senior is more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke due to to alcohol causing higher blood pressure and irregular heartbeat in the body. It can lead to major health issues and even fatality in seniors.
Liver is majorly impacted by alcohol, because it can develop too many fat deposits, causing inflammation and failure. Increased use also can lead to permanent liver damage and an increased chance of liver cancer.
Many parts of the body are also affected by alcoholism. It varies from senior to senior, which is why it is recommended for seniors to get regularly examined by a medical professional to ensure no alcoholic related problems are developing or present.
How Assisted Living Communities Prevent Senior Alcoholism
If you or someone in your family is looking for a senior living space (whether it be independent or assisted living communities) but are concerned about senior alcohol abuse, consider looking for communities that strictly regulate alcohol consumption in its residents or are located in “dry” communities (areas that don’t serve alcohol or prohibits the sale/consumption of alcohol on certain days of the week). If there isn’t in the area you had your eyes set on, consider bringing up the topic during the interview with the community’s management. It’s very likely they’ve experienced this issue before and their staff are trained/well versed on the topic.
While it’s a good idea to know about a senior living community and their dedication to resolving one’s own senior alcoholism, getting over the problem shouldn’t be handled by them alone. Those involved need the support of their family and friends around them. With the right care and support, a senior’s trouble with alcohol over consumption can be taken care of to where one might only consume lightly or quit altogether.