As the nation continues grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged social distancing, evidence suggests we’re coping with alcohol. According to Nielson figures, for the week ending March 14, 2020, “off-premise outlets such as liquor and grocery stores saw sales of wine up 27.6%, spirits by 26.4% and beer, cider and malt beverages by 14% compared to the same week a year earlier.”
While the long-term impacts of this increased alcohol consumption are unknown, it does present a great opportunity to reflect on your own use of this popular yet potentially dangerous substance. Though alcohol is a legal drug, it is by far the deadliest. Alcohol causes more deaths in a year than all other drugs combined, aided by its ease of access and its role as a contributing factor in other diseases and accidents.
When people think of alcohol abuse, the images which come to mind might often be of college kids who don’t know their own limits. But despite the prevailing image of alcoholism being a young person’s disease, anyone at any age can suffer from drinking problems —including the elderly.
Seniors Are Still at Risk for Alcoholism
Many older people may find themselves in circumstances which make alcohol abuse more difficult to diagnose or treat. Seniors can be at a greater risk for isolation — especially during social distancing — which can be a factor both in developing an alcohol problem and getting proper treatment. In fact, there is a 65 percent rise in high-risk drinking in older age groups.
Many people may find their tolerance to alcohol decreases as they get older. As aging bodies lose mass and retain less water, the effects of alcohol can be more pronounced than they were when we were younger. As a result, people who continue to have the same number of drinks as they did ten years ago may find themselves consuming a dangerous amount of alcohol.
Misdiagnosis of senior alcohol abuse is another serious concern. Because people often face a wider array of health concerns as they age, the signs of alcoholism may become harder for doctors or caretakers to identify in older people. Slurred speech, confusion, memory troubles, and loss of interest in old hobbies are all possible symptoms of dementia, but they are also common markers of alcohol abuse. Identifying the cause one way or another may require careful observation, which isolated seniors may not have access to.
Depression is a Significant Contributor to Alcohol Abuse
The longer life endures, the more time we have to experience its bitterness as well as its joys. Older adults often have suffered from loss, and at the age when friends and loved ones may begin to pass away more frequently, these losses become more difficult to cope with. Widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism in the United States, and alcohol abuse has risen the highest in people over 65 than any other age group.
Seniors are uniquely at risk when it comes to depression, and many people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Isolation, financial insecurity, and grief all are factors that seniors can find themselves grappling with, often with more limited resources than younger people still in the workforce.
Misuse of Alcohol Can Have Dire Consequences
Seniors are hospitalized as often for alcohol-related problems as for heart attacks. Seniors who take medication every day can also be in danger, as mixing alcohol and medications can lead to serious health concerns.
Alcohol is a factor in 60 percent of falls. Though not all falls are fatal, all run severe risks of impacting mobility and quality of life. One in four Americans over 65 suffers a fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal injury among older adults.
Alcohol can also negatively impact preexisting conditions. It can worsen osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, ulcers, memory loss, and mood disorder, especially when consumed at high quantities over longer periods. It can also make other conditions more difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms of alcohol abuse can mirror and even conceal other serious concerns.
Get Help as Soon as Possible
If you or someone in your life needs help with alcohol abuse, there are resources available. Call the confidential SAMHSA’s National Helpline for immediate support. Sometimes reaching out to a person struggling with alcoholism with compassion and understanding can make a big difference. In some cases, however, it can be challenging to know when an older loved one is struggling in the first place.
For seniors who are suffering from chronic illness, home-bound with mobility issues, or simply living in isolation, finding an at-home caregiver can provide an additional line of support. Having a person to offer a helping hand and stay on the lookout for symptoms of alcohol abuse can make a large difference. Generations Home Care is committed to being there.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.