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Alcohol Abuse The Silent Epidemic Affecting the Elderly

Part 1 of the Alcohol Addiction series

Alcohol dependency in older Americans has been steadily increasing over the past two decades. This is a particularly troubling trend because the effects of alcohol on our bodies intensify with age, making elderly people more susceptible to alcohol-related disorders and injuries.

Understanding what causes alcohol abuse in older adults and the signs you need to look out for will hopefully enable you to get your elder loved ones the help they need before alcohol abuse ever becomes a problem.

Common Reasons for Increase in Alcohol Dependency in Older Adults

Retirement and Boredom: Many older adults struggle to adjust to retirement, especially if they are used to an active lifestyle. Without hobbies or activities to replace work, they might feel directionless and like they have lost their purpose in life, leading to feelings of depression.

Financial Problems: Retirement can not only be mentally taxing on your loved ones but also financially. The constant worry about whether their savings and social security funds are enough to cover their expenses can make seniors feel very stressed. Some turn to alcohol to ease this tension.

Pain Management and Other Health Concerns: Aging increases the risk of serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and hearing loss. Many seniors also face problems like osteoarthritis, which can lead to chronic pain and disability. In these cases, drinking might seem like a way to deal with their failing health, but it only causes more damage in the long run.

Loneliness: As they grow older, your loved ones might start to struggle with social isolation and feel lonely as a result of empty nest syndrome or limited physical mobility. Drinking can often end up being a pleasant way for them to pass time. This was more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when many older people reported feeling lonely, depressed and anxious.

Grief: Losing close family and friends is an unavoidable part of life, more so for your aging loved ones. Alcohol might often feel like a way to deal with grief and sorrow.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Seniors

Diagnosing alcohol addiction in the elderly can be tricky since its symptoms are often mistaken for depression, anxiety, or even dementia and other age-related disorders. However, you need to pay closer attention.  Identifying the signs of alcohol abuse in the early stages will allow you to get your loved ones the help they need before the damage becomes irreversible. Here are some signs to be aware of:

  • Confusion and memory lapses
  • Inability to control the level of alcohol intake
  • A preference to drink alone
  • Being secretive or lying about their drinking
  • Experiencing hangover symptoms frequently
  • Avoiding any conversations about their drinking
  • Mood swings, irritability and aggression
  • Lack of enthusiasm for social activities and other things they used to enjoy
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Neglecting daily responsibilities and personal care

Oasis Senior Advisors can help you discover the resources you need to address alcohol-related problems in your elderly loved ones. Call us at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901, or fill out this online form for more information.

Oasis Senior Advisors


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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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