Community Blog

Seniors and Alcoholism: A Lethal Combination

By Debbie Humphrey

Bottles and glasses of assorted alcoholic beveragesRemember being a young teenager, looking forward to the milestones we deemed important: our 16th birthday, so we could get our driver license; our 18th birthday, which signaled adulthood; and our 21st birthday, when we could legally purchase and consume alcoholic beverages?

When it comes to alcohol, it can be fun and relaxing to enjoy a libation or two with friends and family at Happy Hour after work, or during special occasions and celebrations. However, it also becomes more dangerous as we age, because our bodies change over time and do not metabolize alcohol the way they did when we were in our 20’s.

Be mindful of seniors who partake of the spirits, for this reason and others. Seniors and alcoholism can be a lethal combination.

Widows and widowers who have lost their life partners are susceptible to consuming too much alcohol out of sadness, loneliness, and depression. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to the mood because alcohol is a sedative.

Too much alcohol ingested by seniors can be harmful – and fatal – in combination with medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter. For example, consuming alcohol with acetaminophen can cause liver damage. More powerful pain relievers and muscle relaxers add an even greater risk when mixed with alcohol.

Furthermore, some side effects of alcohol use and alcoholism often mimic symptoms of illness and disease in the elderly, essentially, masking what is really happening with the person. It’s always a good idea to inventory how much alcohol is in the home, and note how quickly it disappears.

As you know, increased levels of alcohol can make you increasingly tipsy. An elderly person who has had a few drinks is much more likely to fall and suffer major injuries, more so than their younger counterparts, due to brittle bones, unsteady balance and vision impairment.

These are just a few of the reasons seniors and alcoholism are a dangerous mix. If you have concerns, they should be addressed by doctors, family members and/or close friends. It may not be easy to discern, as most individuals when approached about a drinking problem tend to cover it up or lie about it, no matter what their age.

If you need guidance as to the best way to intervene to keep your senior from over-indulging, or indulging at all, contact the compassionate caregivers at Home Helpers. There may be options, like companion home care, to help seniors from feeling so alone, and keep their minds engaged and their bodies active. This shifts the focus toward the many positive aspects of life and away from alcohol. 727.942.2539