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10 Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Older Adults

Jun 10, 2021

The changes brought on during late adulthood can be dramatic and come on suddenly. It can mean a big impact on a person’s health, lifestyle, and social connections. These changes can make adjusting to the new normal difficult for a person over the age of 65. They can even create vulnerability to substance use in an older adult who never had a drinking problem before retirement.  Today, let’s talk about the signs to look for in older adults who may be misusing alcohol and could benefit from treatment.

Late onset addiction can affect older adults, even ones who have never misused drugs or alcohol until now. There are some signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD) that you can look for in loved ones in this age group. They include hiding drinking habits, a change to self-care, an increase in isolating themselves, and injuries during periods of drinking. Awareness of an AUD can be a starting point for a conversation with your loved one about treatment options. A program designed with age-specific needs in mind can be a helpful way for them to begin recovering from senior alcoholism with people their own age and with family support throughout the treatment process.

The Top 10 Signs of Senior Alcoholism

Looking for signs of alcohol misuse in an older loved one or friend can feel challenging. Some symptoms of normal aging can show up in similar ways. So, it may take close observation over a period of several weeks.

  1. Does your loved one drink as a response to emotional feelings? A drink might be used as a way for them to manage anxiety or depression.
  2. Do you notice your loved one drinking alcoholic beverages quickly? Drinking faster could be what leads them to drink more.
  3. Have you noticed a loved one hiding their drinking habits? Changing places where alcohol is stored and not letting people see their empty containers may be signs of alcohol abuse in older adults.
  4. Has your loved one gotten hurt while drinking? Injuries can become a serious threat when an older adult loses coordination after having a drink or two.
  5. Do they appear intoxicated frequently? You may notice it’s become a regular thing, and they may be drinking every time you see them.
  6. Has their tolerance for alcohol increased recently? Normally, tolerance decreases in older adults. A new increase suggests they may be drinking regularly now.
  7. Is your loved one isolating themselves more often? A family member who drinks may not want company if they feel they will be judged. They may also become resentful or argumentative when other people are around.
  8. Has their self-care changed lately? A decline in care for themselves, their pet, or their home in general could be signs of losing interest in anything besides alcohol.
  9. Are you noticing unusual changes in their memory? Memory loss can come from nutritional deficiency or mixing alcohol with prescription medication.
  10. Is your loved one experiencing legal, financial, medical, or social problems? Drinking can result in these potential issues, and an older adult may attempt to minimize a situation or act like they have it under control.

Does Senior Alcoholism Look Different?

Yes, alcohol abuse in older adults show up in ways that are specific to the age group. They’re in retirement age, and may not have the financial resources of their past. They may be dealing with grief from the loss of loved ones and friends. Older adults may have a shrinking social circle and spend more time alone.

Effects of alcohol on the body of an older adult can show up differently, too. It can be adding safety risks for someone whose motor skills and coordination already may have been affected by aging. As a group, older adults are more likely to be taking prescription medication regularly. Mixing meds with alcohol can lead to breathing issues, dizziness, drowsiness, and many other harmful side effects.

When to Get Help

There’s no need to wait to address alcohol abuse in older adults. It’s a conversation you can have anytime you see the signs of a drinking problem in your loved one. Getting close family involved is an option, too. They can be an essential part of the recovery support throughout and following a patient’s stay in a treatment program.

If your loved one has never been to treatment, they might not be aware of programs designed specifically for their age group. They’re not alone in starting recovery at their age, either. Roughly one-third of older adults with a substance use disorder didn’t experience it until later in life. That’s one reason why Hanley Center offers age-specific treatment for men and women with alcohol use disorders.

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 844-501-4673.

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