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How to Help an Addict or Alcoholic Grandmother

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With up to 17 percent of adults over the age of 65 having a problem with alcohol abuse, according to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services in New York State, many people may be left wondering how to help an addicted grandmother. One way to help a grandmother who is abusing drugs is to call our helpline at for guidance and to find available treatment centers. Understanding alcoholism and drug abuse in the elderly can help people plan appropriate interventions and provide the necessary support as well.

Signs of Substance Abuse and Addiction in the Elderly

Some signs of addiction or substance in the elderly may be mistaken for signs of age-related mental or physical decline. If a grandmother forgets to take her medications as prescribed, for example, her family members might assume that her memory is deteriorating from age, although her memory troubles could signal alcohol or drug abuse. Other signs that could be mistaken for age-related decline include:

  • A decline in hygiene
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Frequent falls
  • Irritable moods
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Frequent gastrointestinal distress
  • Unexplained chronic pain

A grandmother with a drug or alcohol addiction may also isolate herself from others, stop participating in social or family activities, suffer from malnutrition, experience financial or legal problems related to substance abuse, or run out of medications much sooner than normal. If you notice these symptoms in your grandmother, it is important that you seek professional assistance.

Did You Know?

Common reasons for emergency room visits by elderly alcoholics are gastrointestinal disease and bleeding, according to American Family Physician.

Dangers of Substance Abuse in Aging Populations

“A grandmother with a drug or alcohol addiction may also isolate herself from others…”
Knowing how to help an addicted grandmother can help prevent some of the dangers associated with substance abuse in the elderly. Although drug and alcohol dependencies are dangerous at any age, they can pose even greater risks to older adults. One problem is that alcohol is absorbed even more rapidly in the GI tract of older adults, which results in a much higher concentration of alcohol in the body.

Those who have osteoarthritis are at a higher risk for falls and hip fractures when drinking, as alcohol affects their balance. Elderly people who abuse alcohol are also at a higher risk of strokes, dysrhythmia, hypertension, and impairments involving brain function. When drugs or alcohol are combined with prescription medications, additional problems can occur.

Did You Know?

About 15 percent of older alcoholics abuse or are dependent on other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, according to American Family Physician.

Treatment Options

Psychiatric treatment Dealing with a drug-addicted or alcoholic grandmother typically requires professional assistance. Her primary care physician should be notified of any concerns the family has. Depending on the severity of the problem, her physician may recommend that she be hospitalized for detoxification. Psychiatric treatment may be necessary also, as depression is a common condition in elderly patients who abuse substances.

When determining how to help an addicted grandmother, consider her overall health and whether she began drinking at a younger age. A long-term dependency may require intensive treatment, whereas late-onset alcohol abuse triggered by difficult life changes may be manageable with outpatient counseling and recovery programs. If she is in poor health or does not have adequate support within the community, she may also benefit from having a home healthcare worker or by moving into an assisted living center.

Inpatient treatment is usually recommended for the initial recovery phase though, because older adults are more likely to experience delirium and falls during withdrawal. Detoxing on an outpatient basis can be an option for those who are both physically well and surrounded by strong social support. Either way, long-term treatment following detox is beneficial for maintaining sobriety.
Treatment professionals are available to help families choose the best route based on the needs of the person. For more information on how to help an addicted grandmother, call us today at .

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