Alcoholism among the elderly is a problem that is often overlooked by family members and under diagnosed by doctors. Estimates put undetected cases at 50 percent. This is attributed to the fact that the elderly are in a minority group that is usually ignored. Additionally, doctors have the mentality that the elderly only suffer from secondary ailments such as dementia and depression. This makes them fail to recognize alcoholism in this age group. Let us look at three things you need to know about alcohol and the elderly.
1. Alcoholism Among the Elderly is More Common than it Seems
Alcoholism among the elderly is rarely discussed the way it is done for other active age groups. Some studies have tried to unravel the mystery of this aspect of elderly alcoholism, but many have been inconclusive. Even the few conclusive results haven’t yielded much response from the public. This is seen in the less than adequate rehabilitation centers and treatment programs that have been set up to cater for this group. Because of this, many elderly subjects continue to drink oblivious of the risks.
It is a challenge to obtain accurate information from surveys because many elderly victims lie, hide or disguise this habit. This is because they fear that they will end up losing their freedom once found out. Another reason is that the elderly fear that they will be placed in a managed facility.
2. Alcoholism is Hard to Detect in the Elderly
Many elderly people live alone, which makes it hard for you to detect the signs of alcoholism. Another reason why this is hard is that the signs of alcoholism are similar to signs of aging. It is hard to distinguish the two, even for qualified doctors. This is one reason why alcoholism is overlooked in the elderly.
Some of the signs that care confusing include:
• Frequent falls.
• Difficulty keeping in touch.
• Changes in diet.
• Lack of interest in social activities.
• Slurred speech.
• Decline in personal hygiene.
As you can see, these can easily pass as common signs of aging. To make a correct diagnosis faster, you need to be on the lookout for other specific signs such as the smell of alcohol on the person’s breath, increased alcohol consumption, and avoidance of the subject whenever anyone brings it up.
3. Handling Alcoholism in the Elderly Requires a Different Approach
As people age, their needs change. This means that the strategies for dealing with a young alcoholic might not work on an elderly alcoholic. Research shows that treatment programs and rehabilitation centers that have been tailored specifically for the elderly are more effective as compared to mixed-age treatment options and centers.
Approaches for treating the elderly require a slower pace and less confrontational strategy. The elderly also require a center that offers extra facilities to cope with the medical issues that come with this age. Some of the facilities include ramps and other disabled access facilities. Additionally, the aged require more support to heal, which calls for more family support. This support has to replace the vacuum left by not drinking alcohol.
Why Should You Take a Step?
The risks of alcoholism in this age group are numerous and should not be overlooked. Early recognition of the signs of alcoholism among the elderly is important for successful treatment. Once you notice that a relative or someone close to you is suffering from this problem, you need to seek our help immediately, because failure to do so might lead to bigger problems.