Addiction is a disease that affects all age groups. Estimates state that 2.5 million older Americans struggle with drug and alcohol dependence. This public health crisis continues to grow. Adult children may have grown up in the home of an addict or been surprised when they discovered how dependent their parent now is on drugs or alcohol.
Addiction treatment programs do not have a maximum age for their patients. Seniors can benefit as much as any other age group from addiction recovery. Many children now act as the caregivers for their elderly parents, and this issue is just another disease they can help their mother or father fight against.
Know the Risks
Prescription medication misuse has increased in the elderly population as it has in other age groups. Seniors face an elevated risk of the overuse of prescription drugs due to their age-related illnesses and aches and pains that cause a need for medical solutions. Isolation, the loss of loved ones, and depression are common experiences that many seniors endure.
Another concern is the culture that many people were exposed to during their formative years. Studies show that members of the baby boomer generation are more likely to have consumed alcohol earlier than other generations and, as a group, had higher numbers of people that used marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogenic drugs.
Watch for Signs
Addicts all reach a point in their disease where they cannot hide the signs. The warnings could be a lot of prescriptions and medication that run out too soon. Changes in moods and behavior, sudden clumsiness, and visits to multiple doctors or pharmacies could be red flags. Sudden changes in personal hygiene and appetite are other warning signs.
Discuss Your Concerns
Carefully vocalize the reason for the concern and the signs that have led to the belief that they may have a drug or alcohol problem. Addiction is a sensitive subject, so the parent may become defensive or angry. Many addicts deny the problem at first, even to themselves. It could take several conversations over weeks or months before they admit to any problem.
Get Medical Advice
Many of the signs of drug abuse can also be symptoms of dementia or other medical concerns. A visit to a primary physician helps to avoid any misread behaviors. Go with the parent to the doctor and discuss the reason for the concern, or address the issue at their regular checkup if they will not agree to a special appointment.
Alcohol-related health problems result in as many senior hospitalizations as heart attacks. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, as much as 14 percent of ER visits and 11 percent of hospitalizations in the elderly population occur because of drugs and alcohol. Discuss openly with the treating physicians any concerns or information about the parent's recent behavior and use of drugs or alcohol.
Get Some Help
A drug treatment program can help people of any age to break an addiction. Give the parent rides to meetings, agree to go to counseling, and talk to experts to learn how to handle different scenarios. Talk to doctors to find drug-free solutions for pain, depression, and anxiety. Give love and support to the parent as they work through their addiction.
Recognize that the problem does not end when they complete their addiction treatment. In treatment, they will discover why the drug or alcohol use began. Look for ways to avoid a repeat of these events. Encourage continued counseling if depression was a factor. Help them to become more active if they drank out of loneliness. Stay involved and aware of their activities.
At Rehabilitation Care Group, we know that drug and alcohol problems affect everyone. Age groups, genders, and economic standing cannot prevent someone from addiction. However, the right treatment program and the love and support of friends and family can help people to overcome their addictions and enjoy a clean and sober life. Contact us for more information.