Posted on Feb 28, 2019 in Senior Health
It is a sad truth that millions of people will become addicted to alcohol over the course of their lifetime. Many of these individuals may be seniors who have suffered from years of the disease or who have only recently begun drinking heavily.
One study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that roughly 1 in 8 Americans is suffering from an alcohol use disorder, or nearly 30 million people. This staggering number reveals that each of one us likely has multiple friends, acquaintances, or relatives who are alcoholic seniors.
It can difficult to distinguish the signs of an alcoholic senior vs. a casual or occasional binge drinker. That is because alcoholic seniors usually experience a degree of shame and wish to veil their addiction in secrecy so as to appear normal to the rest of the world. If you’re concerned that yourself or a loved one may be developing an addition to alcohol, here are some signs to be on the alert for.
Difficulty With Memory and Keeping Obligations
An alcoholic senior will often struggle to maintain their obligations, whether they be work, family, relationship, or school related. When alcohol takes priority in someone’s life, it can cause other responsibilities to fall by the wayside. An alcoholic senior usually self medicates with alcohol to cope with the world around them, but the irony is that relying on alcohol to cope will only result in further distress and inability to deal with the world effectively.
In other words, responsible drinking usually occurs after responsibilities have been taken care of. Alcoholic senior drinking occurs before and during responsibilities, and often results in them not being taken care of. If you believe someone may be an alcoholic senior, they may be struggling to show up or maintain their work schedule. They may have trouble paying bills or not turn up at events that they promised they would be at. If this is a common occurrence, you may be dealing with alcoholism.
This is a big one. Alcoholic seniors may feel shameful or want to protect those around them from learning of their addiction to alcohol. This leads to the addict being forced to lie about their addiction, downplaying the severity of their drinking while sneaking drinks when no one is looking. Chronic lying will extend into other parts of their lives, such as lying about finances, relationships, and events. It’s a slippery slope that all results from the fundamental lie that all alcoholic seniors tell themselves, which is that alcohol is the solution, no the problem.
Addicts will rationalize their usage of alcohol as time goes on. This can start from needing alcohol to be more social at events and progress to needing alcohol to get through a stressful work day or to sleep at night. This kind of progressive alcoholism is based on the false assumption that drinking is helping solve their problems, when in reality it is only exacerbating the situation. If someone displays a chronic lying habit surrounding their drinking or irregular behavior, they could be an alcoholic senior.
Drinking alcohol until a senior has an accident is a dangerous indicator of alcoholism that should be addressed as soon as possible. Blacking out occurs when too much alcohol is consumed and it interferes with the receptors in the hippocampus. Excess alcohol causes neurotransmitters to misfire, disrupting processes associated with learning and memory. In other words, drinking until falling down can result in brain damage. Drinking alcohol until this point is an indicator that someone is on the path to or deeply ensconced in an alcohol addiction.
Blacking out once or twice is dangerous because it puts someone at increased risk for hurting themselves or others. Repeated accidents indicate that someone has little to no control over their drinking. Prolonged accidents indicate that someone is incapable of controlling their drinking and they may be seriously damaging their cognitive abilities.
This sign is one of the most prevalent and initial signs of alcoholism to look out for. If you drink alcohol on a daily basis to the point of inebriation, you are already exceeding the healthy limits of alcohol consumption. Even just having a few beers each night is an initial sign of relying on alcohol to relieve stress or boredom. Relief from alcohol is only a temporary fix, and over time it will require more alcohol to achieve the desired effects. Daily drinking that starts in the morning is especially dangerous and a big sign to look out for.
Imbalanced Emotions and Behavior
Alcoholic seniors typically use alcohol to temper their emotions. When they go without alcohol for too long, they may suddenly experience temper flare ups or feelings that they are unable to deal with. This could manifest itself in outbursts or displays of depression such as lethargy or becoming withdrawn and antisocial.
Likewise, while they are drinking alcoholic seniors may engage in inappropriate or out of character behavior that could put themselves and others at risk. alcoholic seniors may act out because they feel strengthened by their drug and invulnerable. This could manifest itself in actions such as breaking the law, getting into dangerous or life threatening situations, or engaging in risky sexual behavior. Look out for irregular or wildly inappropriate behavior because it could indicate an underlying problem with alcohol.
When you can recognize the signs and symptoms of alcoholism you may be able to secure treatment faster. alcoholic seniors who engage in prolonged drinking are at risk for serious health conditions that affect their body, brains, and could end their life. Even if someone’s drinking seems minor or on the cusp of alcoholic senior, it does not hurt to have a discussion about the severity of alcohol addiction.