A Safety Issue: Substance Abuse in the Elderly

medication safety

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.


Posted on: December 22, 2016, by : admin

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