May 1, 2024

Alcoholism and The Elderly

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Alcoholism in the elderly can often go unnoticed, leading to risks of physical, emotional, and social issues if unchecked.

Researchers estimate that up to 3% of over-65s have diagnosable alcohol addictions and many more seniors exceed moderate drinking guidelines.

Read on to learn more about alcohol use and older adults. You can also find out how to connect with treatment for alcohol abuse and the elderly.

Identifying Alcohol Abuse in The Elderly

Recognizing alcohol abuse in seniors can be challenging, as some symptoms may mimic those of other medical conditions or the natural aging process. That said, early identification helps in mitigating its impacts due to the progressive nature of alcohol addiction. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Changes in behavior or mood: Look for significant shifts in mood, irritability, or episodes of depression. An increase in secretive behavior or withdrawal from social activities may also indicate a problem.
  • Physical health decline: Unexplained bruises or injuries could be signs of falls or accidents associated with intoxication. Additionally, observe any sudden or gradual decline in personal hygiene or physical health without a clear medical reason.
  • Cognitive impairments: While some cognitive decline can occur with aging, noticeable confusion, memory loss, or difficulty concentrating beyond typical age-related changes could be signs of alcohol abuse.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: This might include neglecting household chores, missing important appointments, or showing a lack of interest in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Increased tolerance and withdrawal: Needing more alcohol to achieve the same effects or experiencing withdrawal symptoms like shaking, sweating, or anxiety upon discontinuation are diagnostic criteria for alcohol addiction.
  • Financial or legal complications: Unexpected financial issues or legal troubles, such as DUI charges, may be red flags for a developing alcohol addiction.

If you notice a number of these signs manifesting in an elderly loved one, consider taking an alcohol addiction quiz on their behalf. This can give you an accurate idea of whether your loved one meets the criteria for alcohol use disorder (the clinical descriptor for alcoholism). While no substitute for a formal diagnosis, this type of quiz can indicate whether your loved one might benefit from professional intervention.

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How to Get Treatment for an Elderly Alcoholic

Alcohol and the elderly effects can be damaging, but seniors who engage with evidence-based treatment can initiate sustained recovery from alcohol use disorder.

Educate yourself and your senior loved one about addiction

Education about alcoholism and its impact on older adults can empower both you and your loved one. Understanding the challenges, potential complications, and the importance of treatment can motivate an elderly individual to commit to recovery, and it can also help you assist them in finding an appropriate rehab center for their needs.

Assessment by a healthcare professional

Next, have a thorough assessment conducted by a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or a mental health specialist. This assessment will evaluate the elderly adult’s physical and mental health, the severity of the alcohol use disorder, and any co-existing conditions. It helps in determining the most appropriate level of care and treatment plan.

Discuss treatment options

Based on the assessment, explore treatment options that cater to the needs of older adults. This may include inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient treatment programs, or specialized services for elderly individuals. Consider factors such as the program’s approach to treatment, staff expertise in dealing with older populations, and the availability of medical care for co-existing conditions.

Consider a geriatric specialist

For elderly alcoholics, it might be beneficial to work with a geriatric specialist who understands the aging process fully and can provide age-appropriate care and support throughout the treatment process.

Involve family and support systems

Engaging the family and creating a supportive environment is beneficial for the senior battling alcohol abuse. Family members can offer emotional support, help with decision-making, and play an important role in the recovery process. Family therapy sessions can also address underlying issues and improve communication and relationships.

Plan for long-term support

Recovery from alcoholism is an ongoing process that might not always be linear. Plan for long-term support, which may include ongoing counseling, support groups tailored to older adults, and wellness programs that focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Consider any adjustments needed in the home environment to support sober living.

Helpline for Elderly Alcoholics

Recognizing the unique challenges faced by elderly individuals struggling with alcoholism, Gratitude Lodge offers a dedicated helpline to provide support, guidance, and resources tailored to the needs of older adults. By calling 800-994-2184, elderly alcoholics and their loved ones can access a range of services designed to facilitate the journey towards recovery. Here’s how we can help:

  • Comprehensive insurance checks: Our team conducts thorough insurance checks to clarify your coverage and ensure you can access the treatment services you need without financial strain.
  • Intervention assistance: Recognizing the need for professional help is the first fundamental step in the recovery process, but initiating the conversation can be challenging. Gratitude Lodge offers guidance and support in setting up interventions, providing families with the tools and strategies to communicate effectively and compassionately with their loved ones about the need for treatment.
  • Coordination of travel arrangements: We understand that logistics can be a barrier to treatment, especially for older adults with mobility or health concerns. Our helpline offers travel coordination services, making sure that you or your loved one can safely and comfortably reach our facilities, regardless of your starting point.
  • Accommodations for health needs: Gratitude Lodge is committed to providing a safe, welcoming environment that accommodates the specific health needs of older adults. From accessible facilities to personalized medical care, we ensure that every aspect of our treatment program is designed with the well-being of elderly adults in mind.
  • Targeted treatment plans: We offer personalized treatment plans that address not only alcoholism but also the underlying causes and co-occurring mental health disorders which may affect older adults. Our holistic approach includes medical treatment, therapy, and wellness practices tailored to individual needs.

By reaching out to our helpline at 800-994-2184, elderly individuals and their families can take a crucial step towards recovery and healing. At Gratitude Lodge, we’re here to offer support, compassion, and expert care at every stage of the journey.

Risk Factors for Alcohol Abuse and Older Adults

Detoxing from alcohol at home can be especially risky for older adults due to the potential for severe withdrawal symptoms and the presence of coexisting medical conditions. Older adults are more likely to experience complications during alcohol withdrawal, including:

  • DTs (delirium tremens): Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal characterized by sudden and severe changes in mental and nervous system functioning. Symptoms include confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fever, which can be life-threatening without proper medical care.
  • Dehydration and nutritional deficiencies: Alcohol withdrawal can lead to dehydration and deficiencies in vital nutrients, which are particularly dangerous for older adults who may already be frail or have existing health conditions.
  • Increased risk of falls and injuries: Withdrawal symptoms like tremors, seizures, and confusion can increase the risk of falls, leading to serious injuries such as fractures.
  • Worsening of pre-existing health conditions: Alcohol withdrawal can inflame existing health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders, posing additional risks to older adults.
  • Medication interactions: Older adults are more likely to be on multiple medications. Alcohol withdrawal and detox processes can interact with these medications in unpredictable and harmful ways.

Following detox, there are unique risk factors for elderly adults with regard to alcohol addiction.

Social isolation

Retirement, loss of a spouse, or being distanced from family can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, increasing the risk of alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism.

Physical health decline

Chronic pain or medical conditions, which are more common in older age, may lead to self-medicating with alcohol.

Mental health issues

Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline can increase susceptibility to alcohol abuse among the elderly.

Life transitions

Major life changes, such as retirement or the loss of a loved one, can be stressful and might trigger unhealthy drinking patterns.

Lack of awareness

There may be a lack of awareness among older adults, their families, and healthcare providers about the risks of alcohol abuse and its signs, leading to underdiagnosis and undertreatment.

Given these risks, older adults should seek professional medical assistance rather than attempting to detox from alcohol at home. Medical professionals can provide a safe detox process, manage withdrawal symptoms, address coexisting health conditions, and offer ongoing support for recovery.

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Get Treatment for Elderly Alcoholism at Gratitude Lodge

If you or a loved one need help getting your life back from alcohol abuse, we can help people of all ages at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

Get your recovery started safely and comfortably by tapering off alcohol under close medical supervision at one of our luxury facilities in Newport Beach or Long Beach, CA. After a week or so, you can move into ongoing inpatient treatment.

All alcohol addictions are unique, so all treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge offer targeted and personalized treatments that may include:

For effective treatment for elderly alcoholism, call 800-994-2184.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.