Alcohol Abuse and the Elderly

Martinis

In 2014, the last of the Baby Boomer generation will turn 50 years old. While this group of individuals is still young and spry, they are all collectively getting older. Ultimately, at some point in the future, Boomers will need nursing home care. However, compared to the current generation of elderly people in nursing homes (aged 60 and over), Boomers have a higher rate of substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse is already a problem in the elderly population, which will only get worse as the Boomers move into nursing care facilities.

The Current Generation of Nursing Home Residents

Of the current generation of elderly people in nursing homes, over 60% drink alcohol, with 6% being considered “heavy drinkers.” Heavy drinking is characterized by consuming more than two standard drinks per day, with a standard drink being defined as 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Elderly individuals have a lower tolerance for alcohol due to liver impairments, decreased metabolism, and overall age. Risk factors for alcohol abuse in old age include having a history of alcohol abuse, having a family history of abuse, abuse of nicotine, and the use or abuse of psychoactive drugs. Being male also increases the risk of alcohol abuse, as does the loss of a loved one, such as a spouse or life-long friend, and other major life changes.

Compared to Boomers

The aging of Boomers is so concerning because this group of people has a larger population, and a different attitude about aging, drinking, and living life than the current generation living in nursing homes today. Boomers, as a general rule, perceive themselves as forever young and do not like to acknowledge that they are aging. They also have a freer, more loose attitude towards consuming alcohol and a higher rate of alcohol abuse. As they age, Boomers will take their alcohol abuse issues with them as they move into nursing care facilities.

Challenges in Diagnosing Alcohol Abuse in the Elderly

Many instances of alcohol abuse go undiagnosed in the elderly population for many reasons. This is a problem since residents who need help managing their alcohol abuse are often not getting it because no one actually knows or realizes there is a problem. Alcohol abuse can manifest into psychological problems and depression. Alcohol abuse goes undetected because often times the abuser is in denial, hides his or her problem or his or her symptoms are mistakenly misattributed to some other condition.

  • Denial. Oftentimes, the abuser is in denial, as is his or her family, about the alcohol abuse.
  • Hiding the problem. The abuser may actively engage in efforts to hide his or her alcohol problem from nursing staff, family, and doctors.
  • Hard to distinguish depression from alcohol abuse. Mood changes and other social signs of alcohol abuse are difficult to detect since these indications can mistakenly be attributed to aging in general.

If you are in need of a nursing home abuse or neglect attorney, please not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Rooth Law Firm either online or by phone at (800) 598-4348.


Photo Credit: Kirti Poddar via Compfight cc

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