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Understanding Alcoholism Among the Elderly

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April is Alcohol Awareness Month and it’s a good time to think about how drinking may affect your senior loved one. As elderly relatives age, people tend to think about ways to make the home safer or research dementia care in Placer County, but plenty of adult children and family caregivers overlook senior alcohol abuse simply because they are unsure of the signs and symptoms.

What Leads to Alcohol Abuse in Seniors? 

According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, several factors often contribute to drinking in those older than age 60: physical pain and other uncomfortable symptoms, feelings of loneliness, and difficulty coping with lifestyle changes.

How Much is Too Much? 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), seniors should not consume more than seven drinks per week or three drinks in a single day. More than that is considered risky drinking behavior. One drink is defined as a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1-ounce shot of hard liquor. You should also be concerned if your loved one lies about or hides his or her drinking, is experiencing confusion or other signs of cognitive decline, or frequently falls or has accidents at home.

How Does Drinking Affect Older Adults? 

For seniors, the negative effects of drinking can be amplified. Alcohol abuse can make it difficult to treat other medical conditions, interact negatively with prescription and over-the-counter drugs, increase the risk of falls and other types of accidents, and worsen cognitive function. Common medications that interact dangerously with alcohol include aspirin, cold medicine, acetaminophen, pain medications, and antidepressants.

If you think your loved one may be at risk for alcoholism, talk with his or her doctor. The physician can evaluate your family member and recommend a course of action.

You may also want to consider senior home care in Placer County. A trusted caregiver can monitor your loved one, provide mobility support if necessary, and offer companionship that will help combat feelings of loneliness or depression that might be a contributing factor. Reach out to Home Care Assistance of Placer County at 916.226.3737 to learn more about our flexible hourly and live-in care options for seniors in the area. One of our qualified Care Managers can answer questions and schedule a free in-home consultation at your earliest convenience.