How to Know When a Senior Has a Substance Abuse Problem

You’re worried about your father. He’s taking care of your mom, who has Alzheimer’s, and something isn’t right.

That alone is enough stress for any family, but something else is happening with Dad. He doesn’t seem steady on his feet, he’s having trouble keeping track of his medications and he has a new ailment every week.

Your father may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, and he’s not alone. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, more than 2.5 million senior adults suffer from substance abuse. Philadelphia Addiction Center offers these tips and information.

Facts about Substance Abuse in Senior Adults

According to Stairway to Recovery, nearly 17 million prescriptions for tranquilizers are filled for seniors every year. Additionally, drug and alcohol abuse are often difficult to detect in seniors, as the symptoms can be mistaken for signs of aging.

Also, sadly, many seniors live in isolation, or loved ones may even dismiss signs of drug or alcohol abuse as their loved one engaging in some simple pleasures. However, this can have deadly consequences, with around a million seniors age 65 or older now struggling with addiction.

How to Know if Someone You Love Has a Problem

While it may be challenging to face, there are things to look for if you suspect your loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol, such as attempting to hide drinking from others, drinking despite warning labels on medications, drinking before, during, or after dinner, and using tranquilizers.  Other indicators may include slurred speech, appearance changes, and a loss of interest in once-loved hobbies.

Sometimes, the issue is due to other ailments. Certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, can present symptoms like tremors and impaired coordination, which might be mistakenly attributed to drug abuse in seniors. Undiagnosed mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety can manifest in changes in behavior or mood that may be misconstrued as signs of substance abuse in the elderly as well. It may be necessary to discuss the concern with your family physician. If an underlying condition is revealed, your next step should be to explore local care options using facility assessments and patient reviews.

Health Risks for Senior Adults

While drinking too much alcohol at any age can damage your health, seniors who abuse alcohol are at high risk for liver damage, immune system disorders, and cancer. In addition, alcohol abuse can lead to the worsening of other conditions often associated with elderly patients, like diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, ulcers, memory loss, and mood disorders.

How You Can Help

While it’s never easy to discuss alcohol or drug abuse with someone you love, it can be challenging to talk to senior adults about their addiction. As you approach the subject, remember not to speak to your loved one when they are drinking. Senior adults frequently continue to believe that terms like “alcoholic” or “drug addict” carry a stigma, even though many are aware that addiction is a disease (according to the American Medical Association).

Also, remember that you may need to talk about the issue a little at a time rather than at one intervention-type gathering. Rather than focusing on what your loved one is “doing wrong,” it can be most helpful to tell them how their drinking or drugging is affecting you by using phrases like, “I’m worried when you drink” or “I feel scared when I see you mixing alcohol with your medications.”

Keeping an Eye Out

Installing a Wyze smart camera is a fantastic way to stay connected with your senior parents, ensuring their safety and your peace of mind. It not only allows for easy check-ins but also supports two-way communication. Should any technical issues arise, online resources are readily available to help troubleshoot, making it easier for you to assist them in maintaining the device’s functionality from afar. This approach ensures that staying in touch and ensuring their well-being is simple and effective.

Recovery and Hope

Our beloved seniors need and deserve the best of care, especially if they’re struggling with substance abuse. Luckily, from inpatient treatment to intensive outpatient programs to counseling to the services of Philadelphia Addiction Center, there is help, hope, and recovery for senior adults with substance abuse problems and their families.