Part 3 of the Alcohol Addiction series
The effects of alcohol abuse on a senior person’s body are more drastic than on younger bodies, due in part to an elder person’s slower metabolism and leaner body mass. Combined with other physical changes in the body due to aging, seniors need to be aware of the long-term health complications that can be brought on by alcohol addiction.
While having a glass of wine with dinner is not a cause for concern, if you are noticing a loved one overindulging in alcohol more frequently and more consistently than they used to, it may be time for some intervention. Although you cannot force your parents to change their behavior or give up drinking, there are some steps that you can take to ensure they get the help they need before the problem gets worse:
The first step in addressing your elderly loved one’s drinking habits is to have an honest conversation with them, but you need to be careful about how you broach the subject since they might be reluctant to talk about it. The possibility that they might be in denial about how much they actually drink is also a possibility to be aware of. Choose an appropriate time to have the conversation so they are less likely to react negatively toward your intervention.
When talking to them, try and remember the following:
Don’t Use any Labels: Avoid using any terms that have negative connotations like “addiction” or “alcoholic” since these words might sound accusatory and result in your family member alienating themselves from you.
Talk Honestly About Your Alcohol-Related Concerns: Share genuine concerns that are grounded in your observations about the physical, mental and financial effects of excessive alcohol consumption. That being said, avoid discussing these serious health concerns as a potential risk to their life or threaten them with negative consequences. Instead, focus on the conversation around making small but steady positive lifestyle adjustments for an improved quality of life.
Be Loving and Respectful: Always approach conversations with a loving and respectful attitude, letting your family members know that you are here for them. Invite your loved ones to be active participants in the conversation and ask them questions about their hobbies, relationships and financial goals, allowing them to self-reflect on the different ways in which alcohol is interfering with their ability to live full lives.
One way to ensure that your parents are drinking less is to remove alcohol from their surroundings, or make it less accessible to them. Inform your family and friends to not bring alcohol when they are visiting.
If your parents’ drinking addiction is dire, you can go as far as to ask liquor or grocery stores to not deliver alcohol to their home; while the stores have no legal obligation to agree to do such, most often they will in order to provide assistance.
Many independent living facilities offer happy hours for seniors, making it more difficult for you to restrict your loved one’s access to alcohol. Independent living facilities do not restrict adults from continuing the party in their room long after happy hour is over. If you feel that your parent is at risk, you can talk to the staff to ensure someone is monitoring your loved one’s alcohol intake.
It is best to talk to your parents’ primary physician if you notice any signs of a drinking problem. They might be able to direct you toward counseling or a senior rehab program for alcohol addiction and provide your loved ones with a safe way to recover from their alcohol dependency.