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Alcohol consumption is commonplace in America. According to a July 2023 Gallup survey, 62% of adults indicate that they consume alcohol. However, the effects of drinking alcohol change as individuals age, so problems can occur when seniors consume alcohol.

What Percent of Seniors Consume Alcohol?

Research indicates that alcohol use among older adults has trended upward over the last 10-15 years, especially among women. Of greater concern is that binge drinking among older Americans has climbed nearly 40 percent during that period. Between 2001 and 2013, the rate of alcohol use disorder among people 65 and older increased 107%. Aging naturally lowers the body’s tolerance for alcohol in many adults, thus putting seniors at greater risk for problems compared to when they were younger. It is important for families and caregivers to ask themselves how they should address alcohol consumption and issues resulting when seniors consume alcohol.

Should Seniors Consume Alcohol?

After age 65, a person’s lean body mass decreases, water content drops and metabolism slows down. Thus, alcohol stays in the system longer, and the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream is higher than in younger years. 

The World Health Organization offers the advice that no amount of alcohol consumption is safe for seniors. So, when alcohol is consumed, they increase their risk for many health conditions including liver disease, alcohol dependence, mental health disorders, and cancer. In addition, drinking alcohol over a long time can lead to immune system disorders and brain damage. 

Alcohol can worsen existing health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, mood disorders, memory loss, and osteoporosis. Alcohol consumption can make it harder for doctors to diagnose and treat some conditions because alcohol causes changes in the heart and blood vessels, so warning signs of a heart attack may be undetected, for example. Alcohol can impair a person’s vision, judgment, reaction time, and coordination, thus increasing the risk of accidents, falls, and car crashes. 

Alcohol can interact badly with many prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and herbal remedies, so combining them can be dangerous or even deadly. Medications that can have adverse interactions include aspirin, acetaminophen, cold and allergy medicine, cough syrup, sleeping pills, and anxiety or depression medicine.

How to Help When Seniors Consume Alcohol Excessively 

Here are eight extreme-intervention tips to help when seniors consume an unhealthy amount of alcohol

  1. Find out if they are consuming an excessive amount, and if they are, then find what is causing the alcohol abuse by observing behaviors.  
  2. Remove all alcohol from their environment, including cough syrup and so-called “innocent” sources.  
  3. Use good substitutes such as sparkling water with lemon or lime flavoring, juices, root beer, diet cola, or virgin cocktails. 
  4. Take safety measures including locking up cleaning supplies and toxic liquids that could be confused with drinks. Add door alarms or secure doors to prevent accidental wandering. 
  5. Find ways to reduce boredom, create new hobbies, and increase physical activity. 
  6. Get additional support from family members, neighbors, community friends, or professional home care service providers. 
  7. Get professional medical or mental health assistance.  
  8. Be compassionate and patient with their struggle! Your loved one is likely having a hard time coming to terms with their aging and health restrictions, as well as their changing autonomy. 

Know When To Get Involved

While you may want to control your senior loved one’s alcohol consumption out of concern for them, remember the importance of allowing them to continue to have their independence. If your loved one chooses to have a drink now and then, you may have to step aside and allow them to. If alcohol consumption becomes alcohol abuse and is life-threatening with their medications, then weigh the pros and cons seriously before getting involved and controlling their intake. It can be challenging to communicate that you are looking out for their well-being! Try to do this with compassion and patience. 

Get Professional Home Care for Your Loved Ones         

Contact Caring Healthcare in Columbia, SC., established for 24 years. Whether you need home healthcare for an aging family member, a special needs child, or extra help for another family member, we are here for you. Our compassionate and courteous in-home care aides are extensively screened and experienced in providing routine personal care, transportation, supervision, and companionship for our clients. We offer flexible care options.