How Alcohol Rehab Can Help
Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among adults aged 65 and older. An estimated 1.2% of U.S. seniors suffer from alcohol abuse, and an estimated 0.24% suffer from alcohol dependence. Research also indicates that widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcohol use disorder in the U.S. and that nearly 50% of nursing home residents suffer from alcohol-related problems. With statistics such as these, it’s evident that seniors need help when it comes to managing and treating alcohol abuse and addiction.
Many alcohol rehab centers offer treatment programs tailored specifically to seniors since this population tends to struggle with a higher number of physical and mental health challenges compared with the general population. If you or a loved one is aged 65 or older and suffering from alcohol addiction, please understand that many alcohol rehab centers are devoted to helping seniors experience a safe, fulfilling recovery.
Here’s a closer look at why seniors tend to suffer high rates of an alcohol use disorder, and how seniors can safely be treated at alcohol rehab for alcohol dependence and addiction.
Why Do Seniors Abuse Alcohol?
There are numerous reasons seniors are more likely to abuse alcohol than their younger counterparts. For instance, many seniors deal with high levels of stress and grief when they lose their partner or one or more close friends. Stress can also stem from factors such as reduced income, unexpected or forced retirement, and moving into an assisted living home. Others may abuse alcohol because they feel lonely, bored, isolated, or have limited social interaction.
Seniors may also abuse alcohol to cope with serious health conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Seniors are often less likely to abuse alcohol to benefit from its euphoric high and are more likely to use this substance to self-medicate their health problems. Alcohol is usually much easier to obtain than prescription drugs and other substances and is often a less costly alternative in many cases.
Why Are Seniors More Vulnerable to Alcohol Addiction?
As a person grows older, their percentage of lean body mass decreases. Their liver functionality also diminishes, and their brains undergo changes that make this population more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Older adults who drink the same amount as younger adults will experience higher blood alcohol concentrations and increased impairment. Therefore, it may take a shorter length of time for seniors to become dependent and addicted to alcohol if they drink high amounts regularly.
When combining the physiological effects of alcohol with the unique psychological and emotional challenges this population faces, it’s not surprising why seniors tend to be more vulnerable to alcohol addiction.
What Are Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction in Seniors?
Risk factors for alcohol addiction in any population include genetics, environment, and mental illness. However, there are a higher number of risk factors related to alcohol use during one’s later years.
Risk factors related to alcohol abuse in seniors include:
- Male gender
- Caucasian ethnicity
- Chronic pain
- Physical disability
- Reduced mobility
- Transitions in living situations
- Poor immunity
- Chronic physical illness (e.g. asthma, type 2 diabetes)
- Use of multiple prescription drugs
- History of drinking problems
- History of substance use disorders
- History of mental illness
- Using avoidance as a coping method
- Grief, loss of a loved one
- Social isolation
Why is Alcohol Addiction Especially Harmful to Seniors?
Alcohol addiction is harmful and dangerous to anyone of any age. However, many seniors suffer from comorbidities that can be exacerbated with alcohol use—especially heavy alcohol use. For instance, seniors who are suffering from bone loss or osteoporosis can suffer serious fractures if they lose balance and fall while intoxicated.
Here are other reasons alcohol addiction may be especially harmful to seniors:
- Increased risk of falling and other accidents.
- Exacerbation or complication of existing medical problems such as hypertension, heart disease, and mental illness.
- Forgetting to use prescription medications or accidentally misusing them.
- Harmful drug interactions between alcohol and certain prescription drugs.
- Increased risk of becoming a victim of elder abuse.
- Faster intoxication / higher risk for alcohol poisoning.
- Dehydration due to decreased total body water percentage.
What Are the Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder in Seniors?
The diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder in seniors are the same as that for people in all other age groups. People who suffer from alcohol use disorder generally have difficulty with quitting drinking or reducing the amount of alcohol they drink. They may continue drinking even though alcohol is causing problems with family and friends, or contributing to existing health problems. Alcohol use disorder is also characterized by having a higher tolerance level, and experiencing a set of alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wear off.
Sometimes it can be difficult to detect signs of alcohol abuse and addiction in seniors because some signs of alcohol abuse such as slurred speech and confusion are the same as those of conditions like dementia. If you notice that your elderly loved one is drinking more than one alcoholic beverage per day or becomes moody and irritable when alcohol is unavailable, they may be suffering from a drinking problem.
Here are other signs that may indicate a senior is suffering from alcohol addiction:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Uncharacteristic mood swings and temper tantrums
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
- Increased sadness, depression, and/or anxiety
- Neglect of personal hygiene
- Frequent falls and accidents
- Impairment of concentration and memory
- Loss of interest in favorite hobbies
- Lying about alcohol use
- Hiding alcohol bottles
- Newly developed mental health problems
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms (e.g. tremors, nausea, vomiting)
Which Alcohol Rehab Treatments Are Ideal for Seniors?
Seniors who seek professional addiction treatment should look for alcohol rehab centers that offer alcohol detox. Alcohol detox manages the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and reduces the risk of complications like seizures and dehydration that may arise during withdrawal. Patients who receive alcohol detox are often prescribed medications like benzodiazepines that reduce and ease symptoms.
Many alcohol detox centers offer inpatient or hospitalization programs in which seniors can be watched and monitored closely as they go through withdrawal. These programs are ideal for seniors who have comorbidities such as heart disease and hypertension, and who need intensive medical care while overcoming alcohol dependence.
After alcohol detox, seniors can receive behavioral therapy at an addiction treatment center, where they learn how to cope with stress, grief, and other risk factors without turning to alcohol for relief. Many alcohol rehab centers offer group counseling sessions and support group meetings that cater specifically to seniors so they can battle feelings of isolation and connect with peers who share similar struggles.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction and is aged 65 or older, understand that it’s never too late to get professional help at an alcohol rehab center.
Detox Center offers alcohol detox program to help seniors experience a safe, comfortable recovery from alcohol dependence. Alcohol detox takes place in a luxury setting where seniors can relax and mingle with peers in recovery from addiction. Patients who complete our alcohol detox program can be referred to an alcohol rehab center where they can receive counseling and behavioral therapy for addiction.
Contact licensed alcohol and drug rehab centers near you to learn more about our available alcohol detox programs.