Addiction doesn’t follow any rules. Anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Despite this fact, many people continue to make assumptions about addiction and who is affected. These assumptions are often based on stereotypes, and what people expect and don’t expect.
Most people don’t expect that a senior citizen may be struggling with substance abuse. However, elderly addiction is a growing problem, and it is grossly underdiagnosed, underreported and undertreated. It is an “invisible epidemic” and it is affecting the health and quality of life for countless older Americans.
The topic is starting to get more attention but isn’t being talked about enough. There are many reasons for this. Here are some brief explanations for why the elderly addiction problem isn’t getting the help it needs.
This means that family members and even health care professionals are simply missing the signs and symptoms. They may mistake substance abuse for other problems, such as depression, dementia, or “just aging.”
Some of the symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, weight loss, agitation, slurred speech, memory loss, vision problems, even falling down are often written off as side effects of getting older.
Older members of society are less likely to come forward and admit they have a problem with substance abuse. This is largely due to the common feelings of shame, embarrassment or the stigma that older people may still associate with substance abuse and addiction. People who are in their senior years may have the old-school attitude that it simply isn’t anyone’s business and that addiction is a private matter.
Sadly, many people don’t take elderly addiction seriously. There is a mistaken belief that the older person is too set in their ways to change, or that if they have been drinking or using for this long, why ask them to stop now?
This is tragic, because elderly people who suffer from addiction are experiencing a lowered quality of life, increased health problems and premature death as a result of addiction, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are a variety of situations seniors may experience that can lead to substance abuse. In some cases, addiction has always been present, however, it may not be until the person begins to age that they start experiencing consequences. So, in some situations, it is simply a case of an already addicted person aging.
For others, declining health, the loss of a spouse or friends may trigger substance abuse. Alcohol is probably the most commonly misused substance in the elderly community.
Dependence on prescription medications is also a growing problem. The elderly may be prescribed opiate pain medications to deal with injuries or chronic pain. They may become addicted to their medication, and the problem can go unnoticed by family and health providers for some time.
If you have an elderly loved one who is struggling with substance abuse, you may be feeling helpless and frightened. It isn’t easy to confront your aging parent about their substance use, and they may become angry or defensive, or simply refuse to discuss it.
If you suspect your loved one is abusing substances or is suffering as a result of addiction, you can take steps to help them. Aging parents may not be receptive to suggestions to get help from their family members. However, a professional intervention may give them the push they need to be open to treatment.
A professional intervention helps families encourage their loved ones to get the help they need in a way that is non-threatening but does break through their denial. Denial of the problem often creates a barrier to getting help. Family dynamics can also get in the way. A professional intervention expert is often able to get the addicted person to understand the severity of the problem, how it is affecting them and how it is affecting their family.
Another benefit of an intervention is the support that the family receives. When a loved one is struggling with addiction, everyone around them suffers. There may be fear, stress, worry, financial hardship and anger. An intervention professional can help support the family during this very challenging time.
If you are ready to get help for your loved one, contact Intervention Services, Inc. From the moment you pick up the phone, they are there to support you and your elderly loved one. Call Intervention Services, Inc. today at 877-478-4621.