Alcohol abuse is an insidious condition that can creep up and affect all demographics and cohorts, and the aging population of seniors are certainly not immune. For men and women over the ages of 65, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse considers just one drink per day to be moderate alcohol use. Therefore, heavy drinking is defined as having more than two drinks per day. Estimates have concluded that between 2 and 13 percent of individuals over the age of 60 are currently suffering from alcoholism.
Factors that make alcoholism more problematic for this age group is that impairment occurs with much less drinks consumed, and many medical problems can be worsened by alcohol use, such as gout, hypertension, heart failure, and more. Alcohol use in the elderly predisposes them to falls, decreased judgment and cognition, pneumonia, poor nutrition, and can worsen blood pressure issues. Older alcoholics suffer from higher incidences of gastrointestinal disease, bleeding in the stomach or intestines, and a higher occurrence of strokes. There is also a strong correlation with alcohol abuse and head, neck, and esophageal cancers. And chronic alcohol abuse worsens depression, which can be prevalent in this age group due to loss and grieving.
Diagnosing alcoholism can be more difficult in the elderly, particularly with those that are retired or isolated as their drinking behaviors and any negative consequences are not seen as regularly. So what can you do for your loved one if you are worried about a drinking problem? Families have an important role. The duty on you is to provide support and seek any necessary medical attention and interventions.