Alcohol Abuse in People of 65 Years And Above


Alcohol is one of the most abused substances in the United States and the world. Its consumptions generally start in the adolescence-growing phase and peaks as one gets into adulthood. However, many people start slowing their alcohol intake as they get older.

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Nevertheless, its abuse is not as unheard of among the elderly and more so in people who are aged 65 years or older. Numerous age-related biologic, physiologic, social, and psychosocial issues pose many and unique challenges in the old alcohol abusers. For this reason, it is imperative for more research to be done on how alcohol impacts on the elderly and the measures that can be taken help reduce the high rate of alcohol abuse in this group of the population.

The number of Americans who aged 65 and older is currently estimated to be 46 million, and it is projected that by 2060, this number will double to about 100 million and this will represent about 24% of the population at that time. The number of older adults who abuse drugs and primary alcohol has been on the increase, and the number is projected to increase over the next few years. There are many reasons why the elderly in the society take to abusing alcohol with one of the primary reasons being cited being the urge to relieve physical pain they suffer as a result of diseases or even physical pain resulting from falls or accidents (Gual, Segura, Contel, Heather, &Colom, 2014). The elderly tend to be weak physically, and this is what makes them prone to many accidents. These accidents lead to injury and physical pain they suffer is unbearable; hence, they turn to alcohol to relieve their pain. Being lonely and living their lives in seclusion is another reason why many older adults in society start abusing alcohol. They tend to turn to alcohol to kill their boredom as well as a pastime since many of them are retired, and they have a lot of time in their hands.

  1. Background about the Elderly 

The issue of alcohol abuse of people aged 65 years is high, with statistics showing that up to 5 million older adults in the United States abuse alcohol. This number is, and it shows that male is still the most affected gender, with about 65% of this number being male. Research also shows that many of these men started drinking alcohol, and they just continued with the habit into their old age. The surprising thing is that many women who abuse alcohol in their old age tend to be new to the practices and that they were very responsible drinkers in their early years of life. Many of these women tend to start abusing alcohol because of some psychological issues such as when mourning for a loved one who has just passed or when they are in pain because of sickness or physical injury. Men, on the other hand, can be described as people who were addicted to alcohol in their earlier years, and they were unable to stop the habit (Gual, Segura, Contel, Heather, &Colom, 2014). The fact that they are elderly and with different challenges than they faced while they were younger they continue to abuse the alcohol as they depend on it to fill the psychological issues such as loneliness, depressions, and anxiety. This is what makes it hard for these men to stop abusing alcohol, and many of them continue with this habit until they die.

2.2 Health issues concerning problem drinking within elderly

Alcohol abuse by the elderly can lead to serious health problems that make it hard for them to live better lives in the last years of their lives. Many older adults who abuse alcohol trend to surfer to diabetes. As one drinks alcohol, they damage their pancreas making it hard for it to produce insulin; hence, they develop what is known as type B diabetes. Some of the symptoms the elderly should look for include being fatigued at all times, having to urinate more frequently, having blurred vision, and wounds and cuts were healing at a slower rate than average. People who abuse alcohol tend to suffer from high blood pressure (Gual, Segura, Contel, Heather, &Colom, 2014)Alcohol makes the heart beat faster, and this is how this condition in the elderly begins. Kidney failure is another health problem caused by alcohol abuse (Saarni, Joutsenniemi, Koskinen, et al., 2008). This condition starts when high blood pressure damages the arteries in the kidneys, making it hard for them to filter blood (Graham, Wilsnack, Dawson, & Vogeltanz). Alcohol abuse in the elderly also causes Heart Attacks and Strokes, and this is one of the many reasons why the elderly should stop abusing alcohol because is one of the leading causes of deaths in the older adults. It is also important to mention that alcohol abuse can lead to decreased libido.

  1. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurs with depression in elders and anxiety disorders

As people age, they tend to have some insecurities and fears that if not managed well, they can lead to depression and anxiety. These are the two primary physiological disorders the old face in the society, and if they are not managed well, many of them start to abuse alcohol. The use of alcohol is usually used to help them escape from their fears and insecurities. Research shows that many people after they hit the age of 65 they start thinking about their lives, their deaths, and how they will be remembered when they finally die (Lang, Wallace, Huppert, & Melzer, 2007). These are weighty matters that weigh down on the minds of the elderly, and many of them lack the mental capacity to handle all these issues, and that is why many of them result in alcohol. For this reason, it is essential for the aged to be surrounded by loved ones and always assured that they are loved and that everyone is happy to have had them in their lives.  

  1. Memory Loss

The human brain produces new brain cells irrespective of one’s age. For this reason, memory loss is not synonymous to aging, but it is brought about by many factors that include alcohol abuse (Seppa, Makela, & Sillanaukee, 2018). The elderly who abuse alcohol are twice as more likely to lose their memory that their age mates who do not abuse alcohol. The main reason why this happens is that when an older adult consumes alcohol frequently, they damage their brains, making it hard for the brains to produce new brain cells. This is what is known as long-term memory loss (Saarni, Joutsenniemi, Koskinen, et al., 2008). The short term memory loss, on the other hand, happens when an individual drink too much alcohol in one sitting hence they black out making it hard for them to know what is happening around them and what was happening before they blacked out. This is a hazardous situation because it exposes the alcohol abuser to many dangers because they do not have control of their faculties or their environment. It is essential to mention that memory loss can have any negative impacts on the lives of the victim. For example, they might forget to take their medications hence complicating their lives even further.  

  1. Verbal Fluency

Alcohol makes it hard for people to have the coordination of their body, and this affects how one speaks. Many people slur when they are drunk, making it hard for them to speak fluently. Their verbal fluency is affected in a big way and the severest cases of alcohol abuse in the elderly, some people even forget how to speak, making it hard for them to have any communication with others. It is therefore essential for the elderly to be sensitized on the adverse effects alcohol does to their speech capabilities

3.1 Alcohol prevention & Treatment for elderly

Having seen the extent of alcohol abuse in the society among the elderly and its negative impact it has on them socially, economically, and in their health, it is essential for the community to come up with measures that can help in preventing this social issue from happening (Seppa, Makela, & Sillanaukee, 2018). Several ways can be used to improve the addicted group as well as preventing others from falling into the same problem hence impacting their lives negatively. The following methods can be used in avoiding this issue as well as helping the people that are already addicted to alcohol.  

3.2 Neuropsychological Testing

Neuropsychological testing is one of the best methods that can be used in preventing alcohol abuse in the elderly in society. Neuropsychological testing can be defined as an essential diagnostic tool for assessing the age, especially when they are suspected to be suffering from depression, anxiety, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia (Hogan & Bergman, 2003). This tool can also be used to help treat other neurological conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury (Dahlin-Ivanoff, Gosman-Hedström, Edberg, et al, 2010). The fact that this tool can be able to determine the people that are depressed and have anxiety, it can help caregivers know the ones that are more likely to start abusing alcohol making it easier for them be given the care they need hence prevent them from starting to abuse alcohol. This is very important as it will help in reducing the number of people that abuse alcohol in their old age. 

3.3 Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is another essential intervention method that can be used to prevent this socio issues from affecting more people in society as well as helping the addicted ones to stop their habits (Seppa, Makela, & Sillanaukee, 2018). Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing and challenging unhelpful cognitive behaviors and distortions hence improving the emotional and mental wellbeing of a patient. In this case scenario, caregivers can use this to help them understand the mental state of all alcohol abusers (Fried, Tangen, Walston, et al., 2011). This is very important in treating mental health issues because the caregivers can have a good understanding of all their patients, and they can then develop a nursing plan that is suited for each patient. For example, an older adult abusing alcohol because they are depressed because of the lives they have led can be counseled, and family members advised to stay around them most of the time. This can have a positive effect on such a patient, and they might stop abusing alcohol.

3.4 Alcohol use disorder identification test

This tool is important because it measures the amount of alcohol an individual consumes, making it easy for caregivers to identify the people that are consuming more alcohol than necessary (Tsai, Ford, Pearson, & Zhao, 2010). This tool can play an important role in preventing this social issue from happening in that one the caregiver’s alcohol addicts have been identified, and they can be treated through counseling and even taken to a rehabilitation center where they can fight their addiction (Seppa, Makela, & Sillanaukee, 2018). This tool is easy to use, and the family members at home can use it to measure the amount of alcohol their loved ones are consuming. This is very important because they will know when they are consuming more than enough, and they can work with them to ensure they reduce the amount they are taking.

3.5 Physical Therapy

One of the main reasons why the elderly in society result in using and abusing alcohol is to ease physical pain in their bodies. Instead of resulting into alcohol, they should be taken through what is known as physical therapy which is the care whose main objective is to ease pain in the body and aid in other body functions such as walking easily. Physical therapy also aids in preventing or recovering from an injury, rehabilitates an individual after stroke, injury, accident, or surgery, improving balance when walking to help prevent falls.

3.6. Psychiatric Consultant

Psychiatric Consultant is another method that can be used to help prevent and reduce the rate of alcoholism in the elderly in the United States. Through psychiatric consultation, alcoholics may be helped to understand that alcoholism is not the solutions to the problems they are facing (Rockwood, 2005). Many people facing alcoholism problems face these problems because of other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and these disorders can be dealt with through psychiatric consultations, and this can play a major role in preventing alcoholism in the aged

4.1 Conclusion 

In conclusion, this paper can state that alcoholism in the United States by people who are aged years and above is a big social problem that .should be tackled by all the stakeholders in the healthcare industry. The number of aged will double in the next thirty years, and this will mean that more senior citizens will be alcoholic (Seppa, Makela, & Sillanaukee, 2018). This should not be allowed to happen, and the preventive measures discussed in this paper should be implemented to help save these people from alcoholism. These people also waste a lot of money in alcohol, making it hard for them to afford basic and important needs such as food and healthcare, and this should not be allowed to happen.


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