Helping Older Adults with Alcohol Challenges

November 27, 2017

Between 2.2% and 9.6% of American seniors could be classified as problem drinkers, according to an article in Psychiatry Weekly. Many home caregivers are caring for a loved one who is experiencing an alcohol-related challenge. In some cases, this challenge can be severe and detrimental to the patients, the home caregivers, and other family members.

A difficult problem

Alcohol-related challenges can be difficult, especially when the issue has existed for a long time. Many problem drinkers have been heavily drinking for years or even decades. Changing this pattern of behavior can require intensive efforts. Most home caregivers cannot handle this alone and need assistance in learning what to do.

“Older Adults and Alcohol”

The National Institute on Aging publishes a free downloadable guide that many home caregivers of older adults may find helpful. Entitled “Older Adults and Alcohol: You Can Get Help,” the booklet is intended to be a first step on the journey to recovery from an alcohol-related issue.

3 Steps

The booklet includes 3 steps intended to help family, friends, and caregivers of those with alcohol problems. Those steps are:

  • Talk. When the loved one is sober, let him or her know of your concerns. Avoid labeling the individual as an alcoholic, but let him or her know that the drinking causes you to feel worried. If possible, do some research and (calmly and non-judgmentally) offer some information about alcohol and older adults (such as how alcohol can impact a person taking certain medications). Ask if you can take your loved one to a doctor to talk further about this issue.
  • Offer your help. Let your loved one know that you want to help, and suggest activities that don’t involve alcohol. Encourage your loved one to get help from a counselor or a support group; be ready to counter objections (e.g., “I’ll be happy to drive you there and wait for you.”)
  • Take care of yourself. Take an honest look at how you are feeling and at what help you may need to stay healthy and safe. Talk to family members or friends about what you need and get their support. Look into counseling or support groups for yourself.

It’s important that home caregivers remember that they cannot force a person to stop drinking; that decision must come from the loved one him- or herself. But home caregivers can be ready to offer assistance and support and to let the loved one know that they want to help.

Resources:

NIA “Older Adults and Alcohol” publication 

Alcoholics Anonymous

Al-Anon

Jason Sager

We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior who could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Fairfax Annandale, please call us at 703.750.6644 or email us. We work with most long term care insurance companies as well as Veterans Affairs, and Workers' Compensation.

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