As the youngest Baby Boomers approach the age of sixty, the rising rates of alcohol use among this entire generation are getting attention. Alcohol’s impact on an aging brain and body can be significant, especially for seniors already taking prescription medications for health conditions. So let’s look at why misuse of alcohol can be a problem for older adults and when a senior should seek treatment.
Statistics reveal a rise in senior alcohol abuse. Drinking at this age can worsen existing health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Mixing alcohol with some types of prescriptions and over-the-counter meds can be deadly, too. Baby Boomers who drink heavily or mix alcohol and drugs are at risk for suffering serious injuries from accidents or falls. An older adult with a drinking problem can find treatment that’s age specific at Hanley Center.
Rising Rates of Alcohol Use among Seniors
Higher rates of alcohol use are apparent in multiple studies in recent years. In one study covering 2001-2013, the rate of alcohol use disorder increased 107%. In a more recent poll from 2021, 20% of respondents reported drinking alcohol four or more times per week. In addition, 27% of respondents reported consuming six drinks or more at least once occasion in the past year. 7% of respondents reported experiencing a blackout related to alcohol use.
The Effects of Alcohol on Seniors
Senior alcohol abuse leads to numerous physical and mental health consequences. A person over 65 who drinks daily or binges may experience heart and liver problems, memory issues, and mood disorders. They face an increased risk of developing certain cancers and lowering their immunity, too.
Baby Boomers may notice their sensitivity to the effects of alcohol have increased in recent years. That’s because they’re no longer metabolizing alcohol at the same rate as when they were younger. Their lower amount of lean body mass is a factor, too, as it means there’s less muscle to absorb alcohol.
What Makes Senior Alcohol Use a Concern
The concern about senior alcohol abuse is two-fold. An impact on the health and well-being of a person is one consideration. Physical changes to the body due to aging make drinking a higher risk. Even drinking a small amount of alcohol for some seniors can lead to falls, fractures, and other injuries. The common use of prescription medications among older adults poses additional threats as mixing alcohol and prescriptions can be both harmful and fatal.
Another concern is the impact of senior alcohol abuse on the healthcare system. As more seniors require treatment for substance use, the availability of space in detox facilities, hospitals, and treatment centers becomes critical. As withdrawal from alcohol use is a high risk at home, the need for detox services with medical supervision is essential.
Alcohol Use in Seniors Post-Pandemic
During the height of the pandemic, many older adults typically spent more time alone. Those with existing mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, may have begun drinking more regularly or consuming more alcohol at one time to cope with their symptoms. Their sleep patterns, energy levels, appetites, and daily behaviors may have changed significantly during this time. It’s recommended to check on loved ones who have become accustomed to spending large amounts of time isolated since the pandemic started.
Seeking Help at Hanley Center for Alcohol Use
At Hanley Center, treatment for alcohol use in seniors is provided in a program exclusively designed for this age group. Roughly one-third of the older adults in our programs did not experience an alcohol use problem until later in life. For some, excessive alcohol use can stem from the loss of independence, the loss of a loved one, or a sudden illness.
The program for older adults provides an opportunity to detox safely and restore health through improved eating habits, regular activity, and strategies to face cravings and any mental health symptoms. Also, older adult recovery at Hanley Center focuses on helping a person improve their cognitive abilities and even learn how to rebuild damaged relationships with friends and family members.
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 mental illnesses and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting wellness.