Substance abuse problems often go unrecognized by seniors or their family. It is extremely important that seniors carefully monitor the use of both prescription and non-prescription medicines and strictly limit their alcohol intake. Keeping a list of all medications that includes the dosage requirements can help seniors and their physicians keep track of their medications. This list should be with you in case of an accident that may require hospitalization. Consult a physician or your pharmacist concerning potential interactions between prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs. Be responsible for your own health and don’t be afraid to ask questions about your medications.
Ask your healthcare provider if it is safe to drink alcohol. Alcohol can interact dangerously with many prescriptions and over the counter medicines. Because metabolism changes with age, seniors are unable to process alcohol as effectively as younger people. Although alcohol on special occasions or in moderation may be fine, it is a risk for people with dementia, diabetes, liver disease, and high blood pressure or combined with certain medications. Many people use medications and alcohol to help them cope with depression. Research has shown that alcohol and medication abuse is responsible for falls, insomnia and heart problems. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults 60 years and older limit their drinking to one drink per day providing your healthcare provider approves.
The Substance Abuse Awareness for Seniors (SAAS) initiative was created by the District of Columbia Department of Health, Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (DOH/APRA). SAAS offers education, referrals, advocacy and training for providers of elder care services on assessing and addressing chemical dependency issues with seniors.
If you or a loved one are a senior living with chemical dependency, SAAS can help you find resources to face the problem and develop a plan of action. When confronting a loved one about their problem, be sure to explain to them why you feel that they need help and let them know how much you care about them. It is important for individuals to know that alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease and that there is a wealth of community resources available to help them.
Community Resources for Seniors with Chemical Dependency:
Substance Abuse Awareness for Seniors (DOH/APRA Office of Special Population Services)
National Drug and Alcohol Referral Line