A Safety Issue: Substance Abuse in the Elderly

Have you become concerned about an elderly loved one’s dependence on a prescription drug or you notice that he or she drinks more than usual? Starting and having a conversation about substance use is often difficult, but when it comes to the safety and well-being of your elderly loved one, it’s crucial. What if he or she were to have a fall in the home or cause an accident? There’s no telling what could really happen.


Here are some signs that your elderly loved one may have a substance abuse problem and how you can help them:

Substance Abuse in the Golden Years


Many people assume that when an older adult abuses alcohol or drugs, he or she has had a problem for years. The truth is that some older adults, who struggle with addiction, develop the dependence in their golden years. An elderly man, who only enjoyed a few beers a couple of times a year when he was younger, but now drinks hard liquor every day or an 80-year-old grandmother, who used to only take aspirin for headaches, but now takes painkillers all day, may have addiction issues.

Reasons for Addiction Later in Life


Some elderly individuals start drinking after family has moved farther away or when a spouse or a good friend dies. Others may start to calm nerves, loneliness, and anxiety. Boredom, lack of socialization, and limited mobility may also lead to substance abuse. In some cases, an individual may have had a casual and healthy relationship with alcohol and prescription drugs, but as he or she ages, it becomes a significant concern. Regardless of the reason, there are no specific reasons as to why an elderly individual may struggle with substance abuse.

Signs of Substance Abuse


For older people, who struggle with addiction, it is often overlooked or even misdiagnosed. Problematic drinking and prescription drug abuse may not be as obvious as one may think as some symptoms may be assumed to be part of the aging process. Some signs to watch for include, but are not limited to: secretive or solitary drinking, slurred speech, change of appearance, chronic complaints of health, and depression or confusion.

Starting a Conversation, Offering Help


Addressing addiction issues is never easy and many family and friends are hesitant to bring up the subject for fear of seeming disrespectful or even being removed from the elderly individual’s will. If you suspect addiction, it’s important to talk about your concerns. First, start out by having a frank discussion. If that seems to go nowhere, try to organize an intervention with a doctor or with friends and family.


Offer your love, support, and have resources at the ready, whether it’s a 12 step program, a support group, or therapy. Talking about addiction and getting your elderly loved one help may be a lengthy process that requires the help of professionals and advice about treatment may be most helpful from your local health department, social services, and doctors, who should be able to supply you with adequate resources.


Easy Safety Measures around the Home

You don’t have to drill a thousand holes and spend a fortune to keep your elderly parent or loved one safe, notes Elderly Safety.  

In fact, it may be as simple as a good, solid push. On a suction cup grab bar, for example, available from some online retailers for from about $13 to as much as $115 for a heavy-duty telescoping bar with super-grip capacity.

Still, $115 isn’t much to spend when considering a loved ones’ safety. And this particular grab bar, mounted in a potentially treacherous tile or plastic shower without tools, using only the pressure of a good, strong arm and a little moisture, will offer hours of peace of mind when you are not able to be with that loved one.

Wireless Security

Other safety measures can be as simple to install, and offer as much peace of mind. For example, wireless security, at only $137.83, installs easily with mounting accessories included, and offers 100-foot range for houses or apartments as large as 3,000 square feet.

A 4-zone system, with 6 sensors per zone (including doors, windows and motion-sensitivity), can be customized to operate as the homeowner wishes, including various delay times, instant warning, chimes and even an emergency voice message for those instances where personal response might fail.

It also calls up to 9 separate phone numbers, and provides a 110-decibel siren – more than enough to provide both safety and security for aging parents or a spouse who must be left home alone.

Alzheimer’s Security

Called the Door Guardian, this unique lock that doesn’t look like a lock offers strong but ingenious detention for Alzheimer’s victims.

It does not need a key, and opens by both pulling and rotating the unit out of the way on an inside door that opens into the room (but not on doors that open out). It is reportedly super-easy for caregivers to disconnect, but baffling to Alzheimer’s patients, thus ensuring that they can’t leave the premises untended.

It installs on wood or metal doors, and requires only a drill and a screwdriver, both of which are provided. It is not recommended for use on exterior doors, for obvious reasons, but mounted high on the jamb, or very low, it combines unexpected location with an unusual appearance to disguise its true function so that Alzheimer’s victims are not even tempted to fuss with it.

Motion Alert Devices

Sadly, some of our older loved ones are confined to a bed or a chair by their infirmities. It is a difficult situation for caregivers, but one that ensures greatest safety for those elderly who are too shaky to walk on their own, even to get to the bathroom.

For those individuals, installing a wireless remote alarm pad across the middle of the bed, or the seat of a chair, insures that shaky older individuals can be prevented from attempting to walk around on their own.

The pads operate on batteries or, alternately, an AC adaptor, and usually come with a washable, waterproof protector pad to guard against bladder accidents and leaks. About 10 inches by 30 inches, the soft vinyl pads trigger an alarm that can be located up to 100 feet away from the bed or chair, and offer a full, one-year warranty.

Other Products

Other products requiring little or no installation, and offering hours of reassurance and comfort, include toilet and bath safety rails, lanyard-mounted pagers, cotton safety-transfer belts for walking and moving from place to place, bedside handrails that fit under the mattress and above the box spring, or even hospital beds, which can be purchased new or used, sometimes for as little as $50 in very good condition.  

Or, for fragile but no longer dexterous older hands, consider a doorknob extender, which transforms a slippery door handle into a long, easy-to-grasp wedge that even the most arthritic hands can grasp.

Active Senior Tips

Whatever your age, it’s never too late to get active. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), inactivity increases with age and the loss of strength and stamina, often attributed to aging, is partly due to reduced activity. The CDC reports that by age 75, about 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women engage in no physical activity.


There are numerous benefits to becoming physically active as a senior of any age. Not only does exercise help maintain the ability to live independently and reduce the risk of falling, but it also reduces the risk of dying from heart diseases and certain cancers. Exercise also helps control swelling and pain associated with arthritis. While exercise can do wonders for physical health, it can also improve and maintain mental health.

Tips For Staying Safe During Physical Activity


Whether you are already an active senior or wish to become more physically active, your safety is important. Here are some tips to staying safe while staying active:


  • Take it Slow: If you’re interested in increasing your level of activity (or you want to make significant changes in your current routine), but haven’t been active in awhile, it’s important to start out slow. By starting out slowly, you’re less likely to sustain an injury or overdue it right away. Experts recommend starting with short intervals, 5 to 10 minutes, of moderate activity and slowly build up.



  • Always Consult With Your Doctor: Every workout program comes with a warning to speak with a medical professional before starting the program. The warning is not supposed to be viewed as a mere suggestion, but rather to be taken seriously. If you are at high risk for heart disease, are diabetic, obese, smoke, or have any other health concerns, you should always check first with your doctor before exercises. Other reasons to check first include: new or undiagnosed symptoms, chest pain, or heart beat irregularities.




  • Choose Activities Best Suited for You: There are plenty of types of exercise that you can try. Whether you choose yoga, water aerobics, pickleball, or weight lifting, it’s important to know how to properly engage in the activity. For instance, if you fail to follow the directions on a weight machine or you aren’t sure what to do, your chances of being injured are greater.


Additionally, it’s a good idea to find an exercise you can do all year round or a few you

can participate in throughout the year. For example, walking is a great exercise which can be done indoors and outdoors. It can also be started out slowly and at shorter intervals, but can be easily adjusted for increased activity. For safety while walking, it’s a good idea to walk in an area that has a smooth and soft surface, and is well-lighted. It is also wise to avoid areas that intersect with traffic.


In addition to staying well-hydrated during your exercise, it’s important to wear comfortable clothing and wear appropriate shoes for the activity. If you begin to experience any pain or discomfort while exercising, consult with your doctor right away.


Products That Can Increase Overall Safety For Seniors

Even the slightest of injuries can drastically change the health and overall well-being of a senior. Some injuries may require modifications throughout the home while more severe injuries may lead to drastic, life changing events such as assisted living or elder care facilities. Fortunately, with today’s technologies and resources, seniors are able to live more safely in their own homes.

At Elderly Safety, our experts research and recommend products that can be implemented into a preventative care plan within the home. Preventing the slip or fall is easier and less costly than facing the physical, emotional, and financial distress of a life altering injury.

Whether you are an active senior who goes to the gym a few times a week or have become less mobile due to health issues, we suggest that seniors consider installing or using the following items in their home to decrease the likelihood of a preventable injury and improve their overall safety and well-being.


Rollators or rolling walkers are widely used by people of all ages and abilities and are especially useful in fall prevention. Rollators, unlike the standard non-wheeled walker, is easier to use for people who have difficulty in lifting or have limited mobility or strength and operate well on uneven terrain. Seniors may experience additional benefits from using a rollator:

  • Increased independence in daily tasks, including errands or light housework
  • Is a helpful and safe tool in rebuilding strength and mobility after a slip, fall, injury or surgical procedure

Safety Door Locks

A locked door can be the one thing that keeps your loved one from receiving a severe injury or becoming lost. Seniors, who suffer from memory loss issues such as Alzheimer’s, are vulnerable to “outdoor dangers” such as harsh climates or every day hazards. A safety door lock is often electronic and a code is programmed into a keypad. A caregiver can lock the door, attend to other tasks in the home and not worry about their loved one leaving the security of their home.

Anti-Slip Shower Mat

Any room in the home can be hazardous to an unsteady senior, but a bathroom can be one of the most dangerous places for an elder of any ability. A shower’s surfaces can become slick with even the smallest amount of soap residue, but seniors with balance or mobility issues are more likely to slip in the shower and less likely to get up without help. Anti-slip shower mats offer resistance and can decrease the chance of slipping and falling. Elderly Safety has some tips when searching for the right anti-slip mat:

  • Measure your shower or bathtub for a good fitting mat. Too big or too small can increase hazards, such as tripping or slipping.
  • Make sure the suction/attachment is strong and secure. Don’t use the mat until it’s firmly in place.
  • Keep your mat clean and dry as excess buildup or water can make it unsafe.

Grab Bar for Tubs & Showers

An additional safety feature, great for any bathroom, is a grab bar in the tub or shower. While anti-slip mats can reduce the likelihood of slipping and falling in the bathtub or shower, a grab bar is a safety feature that can increase independence and a sense of security in any senior’s life. Installing a grab bar in a tub and/or shower can make entering and exiting the bathing area less dangerous and scary.