As we age, alcohol abuse can have even more severe consequences on our bodies. Alcohol abuse is very dangerous for people of all ages. However, for elders, the consequences of alcohol can be fatal because their health condition is already poor.
However, what is even more concerning is the fact that elderly alcohol use is often a hidden problem because in most cases, the seniors tend to be left alone by their children or experience the loss of their partner. Without anyone around to notice the obvious signs of senior alcoholism, the elders can develop their drinking behaviors into an addiction.
Read on to find out the causes and the consequences of senior alcoholism.
Most common causes of senior alcoholism
Alcohol addiction is often developed as a coping mechanism to diverse real-life problems such as emotional pain, psychological trauma, or economic problems. Senior alcoholism also arises due to a multitude of causes including:
- Grief- As they age, seniors experience the loss of their spouse or friendships due to death.
- Retirement- After being enrolled in the workforce for several years, retirement should be the period of their life when elders get the chance to relax and live a peaceful life in their homes. However, they can often experience a wide range of negative emotions once they no longer have a job or daily activity. The lack of a job or professional achievements can make them experience depression and loneliness.
- Loneliness – The lack of socialization in elders can be the result of a multitude of reasons. They are often left alone by their adult children or can lose their life partners due to death. Also, retirement can make them feel loneliness as they are no longer surrounded by their coworkers.
- Financial instability- Many seniors experience financial instability once they retire. After retirement, the monthly pension is often a smaller amount of money than the salary they used to get while they were enrolled in the workforce. Financial problems can lead to starting using alcohol as a coping mechanism for the negative emotions they experience.
- Existing health conditions- As we grow older, our bodies become more susceptible to a variety of disease or health conditions. Having poor health condition can make elders start drinking alcohol to deal with their physical pain or the emotions of feeling hopeless, scared or not having the financial stability to get the right treatment for their health conditions.
- Previous drinking behaviors- The specialists from help4addiction.co.uk explain that senior alcoholism can also be a result of previous drinking behaviors in their youth or adulthood. Elders who have struggled with alcohol abuse in their younger years tend to experience a relapsing course.
The consequences of alcohol abuse in elders
Alcohol abuse can have a multitude of social, economic, and health consequences in one’s life. Senior alcoholism can often be difficult to discover, especially if the elder is living alone and isolated from their family.
- Increased risk of severe health conditions- Alcohol addiction can have a multitude of health consequences on the body and mind of the user including increased risk of developing liver disease and heart conditions, increased risk of bowel cancer, and chronic pancreatitis. Alcohol abuse can also affect one’s appearance due to changed nutrition, insomnia, and the effect of toxic substances on one’s skin. However, seniors, who already have a poorer health condition and existing disease, are more susceptible to the health consequences of alcohol.
- Depression- Medical specialists explain that there is an obvious connection between alcohol abuse and depression and anxiety. Most people start drinking alcohol to cope with their problems and depression. However, substance abuse can also lead to depression and anxiety. Not only that alcohol can do a lot of harm to the brain which can lead to depression, but the drinking behavior can also lead to social consequences and isolation which makes the drinker experience feelings of sadness and loneliness.
- Isolation- Isolation in senior alcoholism can result from a multitude of reasons. First of all, drinkers tend to isolate themselves from their loved ones to hide their drinking problem. also, the society they live in and their peers tend to stigmatize alcohol addicts and isolate them. Alcohol can lead to behavioral changes, violence, and irritability which make the drinker less accepted by their peers.
- Increased risk of injury- Alcohol affects the brain centers and the central nervous system which often makes drinkers lose their balance and movement. The loss of body balance can lead to falls which can result in hip or arm fractures or head injuries which for elders can be even more severe. On the long-term, alcohol abuse can also affect memory and cognition.
- Alcohol intoxication- Alcohol intoxication is a very dangerous consequence of alcohol abuse and can often be fatal without immediate medical help. When struggling with alcohol addiction, the body develops a tolerance to alcohol which makes the drinker consume even more amounts of alcohol. Unfortunately, this often leads to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can include symptoms such as increased body temperature, difficulty in breathing, increased heart rate, and can sometimes lead to coma or death.
How to recognize senior alcoholism?
The first step to overcoming alcohol addiction is identifying the problem. Family members or caregivers are the first ones to recognize alcoholism in an elder. Recognizing alcoholism in your elder parents or family members is extremely important to help them overcome their drinking problem because alcohol abuse can lead to a series of severe health and social consequences. Here are the signs that you should pay attention to if you suspect that one of your senior family members might struggle with an alcohol addiction:
- Irritability when being sober
- Signs of drunkenness such as the smell of alcohol from their breath
- Hiding bottles of alcohol from the rest of their family to be able to drink when left alone
- Sever behavioral changes such as violent behavior or irritability
- Changes in the appearance such as weight loss