Senior aged man is drinking in a fully stocked bar.

Everything you Need to Know About Alcoholism in Seniors

0 Comment Category: Senior Health

Alcohol consumption in seniors is a long-debated topic. While some experts say that alcohol use in a regulated setting, like under the supervision of assisted living staff, can be safe for seniors, others say that it can increase the risk of many health conditions.

A recent study in Research On Aging suggested that around 70% of seniors in assisted living communities consume alcohol, while around one-third of them consumed alcohol every day. There is no arguing the fact that seniors drinking alcohol can experience a lot of health complications, especially when they already have underlying conditions like dementia or heart disease. Alcohol consumption in such cases can affect the behavior and mental health of the senior as well as lead to a rapid decline in their overall quality of life.

The West Virginia University School of Public Health reported that alcohol use could worsen the existing medical conditions in seniors as well and lead to many complications in their treatment. Their reports highlighted that conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis, and malnutrition can be aggravated by alcohol intake and even cause new conditions in some seniors.

Generally, seniors in assisted living will be taking multiple medications, be it prescription or over-the-counter medicines. Combining alcohol with these medications can be very dangerous and it could lead to adverse drug interactions that may reduce the effect of the medicines and even cause substance abuse. In the worst cases, the reaction could be toxic and fatal as well. Moreover, alcohol use can also heighten the feelings of isolation and the emotional stress of leaving the familial home and living in an assisted living care facility for some seniors.

Assisted Living for Alcoholic Seniors

Many senior living communities decide not to serve alcohol taking into account all the above-mentioned factors that could deteriorate the health of their residents. Although some assisted living communities impose outright bans on alcohol use, others allow consumption under supervision with the permission of a physician or in designated areas.

According to the Research On Aging study, around 28% of seniors in assisted living facilities make potentially unwise decisions on alcohol use. It can be said that seniors who want to drink alcohol always find a way to do so. However, it does not mean that alcohol use is safe for older adults. It is very difficult to identify alcohol dependence or substance abuse in seniors. Some may underreport the amount of alcohol they consume when doctors ask. Physical symptoms of alcohol dependence can be attributed to other health conditions in seniors as well. This is why choosing the right senior living community plays a significant role in how alcoholism can be controlled in your loved one.

If drinking is too important for your senior parent or grandparent and has always been a big part of his/her life, then choosing a senior care community that regulates alcohol consumption would be a better option. This is because strictly imposing a ban on your loved one’s drinking habits may affect his/her health negatively and make things worse as he/she tries to settle in the assisted living facility. However, it is recommended to consult with your doctor to figure out the healthiest options for your loved one in terms of ensuring both physical health and emotional happiness.

If your loved one’s doctor strongly recommends avoiding alcohol use because of the specific health conditions of your senior, then you should seek out programs that would help your loved one stay away from the habit. Some assisted living communities offer interactive programs to keep their senior residents engaged and fill the void of alcohol consumption. This can help your loved one to manage his/her condition and well-being properly. At the same time, family support will be vital to help senior citizens cope with any withdrawal symptoms.

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