When Grandpa Drinks Too Much
What’s your image of the “problem drinker”? Binging at fraternity parties? The executive who tosses back a couple of martinis at lunch? These may be the pictures that spring to mind, but studies suggest there is also an increasing prevalence of alcoholism among the older population.
While persons over age 65 generally consume less alcohol and have fewer alcohol-related problems than younger persons, they are not immune to overindulgence. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says that alcohol abuse among seniors may be a growing and complicated problem. Surveys indicate that 6 to11 percent of elderly patients admitted to hospitals and 14 percent seen in emergency rooms exhibit symptoms of alcoholism, and rates of alcohol-related admissions for the elderly are similar to those for heart attacks.
Furthermore, the prevalence of problem drinking in nursing homes is as high as 49 percent in some studies, perhaps reflecting a trend toward using nursing homes for short-term alcoholism rehabilitation stays. Late onset alcohol problems also occur in some retirement communities, where drinking at social gatherings is often the norm.
When combined with aging, alcohol abuse can become a significant problem. Following are some things to consider:
- Intoxication contributes to the likelihood of falling. Hip fracture complications are a very serious cause of death and disability among the aged.
- Age interacts with alcoholism to vastly increase risk while driving.
- Alcohol interacts with prescription and over-the-counter medications more seriously in elderly persons, who already have difficulty metabolizing drugs. Some interactions can be fatal.
- Alcohol abuse may worsen high blood pressure, ulcers, and other medical conditions.
- Depression is more common among the elderly and tends to increase when there is alcohol misuse. Among persons older than 65, moderate and heavy drinkers are 16 times more likely than nondrinkers to commit suicide.
- Alcoholism may accelerate normal aging or cause premature aging of the brain. MRI studies show more brain tissue loss in persons with alcoholism than in those without.
Age may make older folks more sensitive to and less tolerant of alcohol’s health effects. Thus, an elderly person can experience the onset of alcohol problems even though his or her drinking patterns remain unchanged through life.
Because alcohol problems among seniors are often mistaken for other conditions associated with aging, they may go undiagnosed, untreated, or be treated inappropriately. The good news is that intervention and treatment of alcoholism among seniors is at least as effective as it is for younger persons, especially when the problem has not been life-long.
Healthy Living Article List
|For Women||For Seniors||Fighting Cancer||Your Heart||Emergency 101|
|Work Smart||Bones, Muscles and Joints||Nutrition News||Advice From Our Docs|