Regardless of a senior’s previous levels of alcohol consumption, it is important to reevaluate one’s level of alcohol consumption as one ages. Numerous studies have found that moderate drinking by seniors can actually have a positive impact on overall senior health. Yet, heavy drinking can have adverse effects, so a careful balance must be reached.

Guidelines for alcohol consumption by seniors are different than for younger individuals. Several factors should be taken into account when determining appropriate levels of alcohol consumption for a senior, including physical changes due to age, chronic conditions and medications a senior is taking.

Generally, a healthy senior might consume the U.S. equivalent of one 12-ounce beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits a day. Women may need to consume less, and these amounts may need to be adjusted with age as an older person will metabolize alcohol differently than a younger one. These amounts may be lower for women and should decrease the older a person gets due to age-related physical changes that significantly affect the way an older person metabolizes alcohol.

The good news for healthy seniors who would like to keep alcohol as a part of their lifestyle is that there are benefits to moderate consumption of alcohol when compared with abstaining entirely. These moderate levels have been shown to increase bone density in women, protect the vascular system and protect against cognitive decline and dementia. Also, both heavy drinkers and those who abstain completely from alcohol were found to have higher morbidity rates than those who drink moderately.

In spite of the potential benefits of moderate consumption for healthy seniors, there may be serious consequences for seniors who have a chronic health condition or who are ill, or for those whose medications – including over-the-counter medications – could cause serious health complications or even death. Due to these factors, a senior should pay careful attention to his or her alcohol consumption, and those who provide the Senior Health Health Care should monitor to make sure alcohol consumption has not turned into alcohol abuse.

Failure to Identify Alcohol Abuse

Typical warning signs of alcohol abuse include fatigue, insomnia, irritability, chronic pain, or impotence. However, these same signs can also by symptoms of a variety of physical conditions as well. Therefore, alcohol abuse may be overlooked as doctors or other Senior Health Care providers attribute them to another of their physical or medical conditions.  Other reasons alcohol abuse could be overlooked include that medical personnel may be more focused on the senior’s current medical concerns, take less accurate histories regarding alcohol use (as they might for a younger patients), or be uncomfortable with questioning or trying to change a senior’s established habits out of respect.

Concerns about alcohol abuse may not be addressed by family members or an agency offering senior home health care because they believe the senior should be allowed to enjoy his or her final years as he or she wishes.  Yet failing to intervene can have serious negative consequences on the senior’s quality of life. Alcohol problems are missed within the health care setting at an alarming rate which means that family members, friends, those who provide home care to the senior, and other members of the senior’s community are vital to identifying and addressing the issue.

Home caregivers, family and friends should pay particular attention to seniors who have suffered a major loss, such as losing a spouse or close friend, experiencing a decrease in income, becoming disconnected from a social network due to a move or retirement, or who have had a significate change in lifestyle due to their health. Seniors who have had a substance abuse problem in the past are also at a high risk of developing late-onset alcoholism. Depression and other mood disorders can also contribute to a senior abusing alcohol.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Physical symptoms of alcohol abuse may include the following:

  • sleep difficulties/changes
  • blurred vision
  • dry mouth
  • cognitive impairment
  • incontinence
  • poor hygiene
  • changes in eating habits
  • difficulty concentrating
  • frequent falls & unexplained bruising
  • slurred speech
  • unexplained stomach upset, vomiting or nausea
  • unexplained chronic pain complaints
  • restlessness and agitation

Seniors who are abusing alcohol may also:

  • become increasingly isolated
  • lose interest in friends, family, and activities that they used to enjoy;
  • be irritable, depressed, or sad.
  • drink while taking prescription drugs
  • drink against the advice of doctors
  • have a large number of empty beer or wine bottles in the trash
  • drink with every meal or
  • drink in secret.

Addressing Alcohol Abuse

Family, friends, home caregivers, and other community members who suspect a senior may have a problem with alcohol should talk with a professional such as a doctor, counselor, social worker, or the senior’s pastor or minister. It is important that the professional has worked with seniors and is aware of the special circumstances seniors face. These professionals may offer guidance on how to approach the senior with their concerns. Alcoholics Anonymous and other organizations may also be able to provide assistance on how to address the issue of alcohol abuse with the senior.

In Home Health Care Can Help

Families may want to consider outside home care for their loved one, especially if they do not live nearby. Depression symptoms can ease if a senior has someone come in to provide home health care services on a regular basis, as this can provide a source of companionship and make the senior feel less isolated at the same time. Additionally, the home health caregivers can let the family know if there are changes in the senior’s behavior that might indicate alcohol abuse. Home home help experts can also monitor medications and read labels to avoid dangerous alcohol interactions. For more information on how in home health care can help, visit Reliant Home Health.

Reliant Home Health serves the following cities of Texas with home health care:

Addison, Aledo, Allen, Anna, Argyle, Arlington, Aubrey, Azle, Bailey, Balch Springs, Bedford, Bells, Blue Ridge, Bonham, Burleson, Caddo Mills, Campbell, Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Celeste, Celina, Colleyville, Collinsville, Commerce, Copeville, Coppell, Crowley, Dallas, Decatur, Denison, Denton, Desoto, Dodd City, Duncanville, Ector, Era, Euless, Farmersville, Ferris, Flower Mound, Forestburg, Fort Worth, Frisco, Gainesville, Garland, Gober, Gordonville, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Greenville, Gunter, Haltom City, Haslet, Honey Grove, Howe, Hurst, Hutchins, Irving, Ivanhoe, Josephine, Justin, Keller, Kennedale, Klondike, Krum, Ladonia, Lake Dallas, Lancaster, Lavon, Leonard, Lewisville, Lindsay, Little Elm, Lone Oak, Mansfield, Mckinney, Melissa, Merit, Mesquite, Muenster, Myra, Naval Air Station, Nevada, Newark, North Richland Hills, Pecan Gap, Pilot Point, Plano, Ponder, Pottsboro, Princeton, Prosper, Quinlan, Randolph, Ravenna, Red Oak, Rhome, Richardson, Roanoke, Rosston, Rowlett, Royse City, Sachse, Sadler, Saint Jo, Sanger, Savoy, Seagoville, Sherman, Southlake, Southmayd, Sunnyvale, Telephone, Terrell, The Colony, Tioga, Tom Bean, Trenton, Valley View, Van Alstyne, Westminster, Weston, Whitesboro, Whitewright, Wills Point, Wilmer, Windom, Wolfe City, & Wylie, Texas