It is widely known that addiction does not discriminate and that it affects people of different ages and in different stages of their lives. However, certain groups of the population continue to suffer in silence and watch their lives become unmanageable before they spiral out of control.
Ozzy Osbourne’s courage to admit his sex addiction is more than just gossip mill fodder. This latest chapter in his life is an opportunity to address issues facing seniors with addiction, be it involving alcohol, drugs, sex, or other things. It also is a chance to encourage people in their golden years that they can make a new start, even if it happens later in life.
September is National Recovery Month, and in recognition of it, the Palm Beach Institute is taking a closer look at addiction among older people and how they are affected. In 2014, the older population–people who were age 65 and older–numbered at 46.2 million that year, which represented 14.5 percent of the US population, says the Administration on Aging.
According to the administration, “By 2060, there will be about 98 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2014,” and people who are age 65 and older “are expected to grow to be 21.7 percent of the population by 2040.”
We can expect that the issues today’s seniors face, which include addiction, will only continue, and they deserve our attention and focus. This four-part series will explore addiction and dependence in older adults–why it happens, who it happens to, and what can be done about it.
Stay tuned next Tuesday, Sept. 13, for “Sex, Drugs, and Ozzy: Age Won’t Slow Down Senior Drinking,” which addresses alcohol and substance abuse addiction among older adults.
Drug & Alcohol Treatment for Older Adults
The signs of alcoholism and drug abuse are different in older adults as compared to younger people. In older populations, drinking and drug use is often hidden. This is due to a number of factors including that older adults often live alone and may be retired and away from peers and co-workers who may have noticed their increasingly abnormal behavior. Older adults also don’t drive as much as younger people do and therefore do not get cited or arrested for driving under the influence.
Signs that an older adult may have a drinking or drug problem include solitary drinking or sneaking drinks during public or family functions, loss of interest in hobbies, hostility or depression, use of drugs and alcohol despite the dangers of use with prescription drugs, and confusion or loss of memory. Approaching an older adult with a substance abuse problem can be difficult because using labels such as addict or alcoholic may cause an older individual to retreat further away from support and deeper into their substance abuse behavior.
There can be other roadblocks for older adults in regards to seeking and receiving treatment. One roadblock is ageism, or the tendency for a society to paint negative stereotypes to older adults. Instead of focusing on their problems in a medical or social context, the problem is attributed to a person being older. As a result of the effects of ageism, older adults may shy away from seeking treatment or have fears that the quality of treatment may diminish due to their age.
Another roadblock is an overall lack of awareness that older adults struggle with drug and alcohol problems. This lack of awareness coupled with the continuing stigma of addiction in society as a whole can put up a barrier between the older adult and the treatment they may need. Older adults tend to be more sensitive to labels and stigma in comparison to younger age groups. Within the older adult populations, there are subsets that may experience more barriers to recovery such as older women, older minority populations and those older adults who are homebound.
According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the following criteria should be features in recovery programs for older adults:
- Group treatment that is age-specific, supportive and non-confrontational
- Special focus on depression, loneliness, and loss
- Rebuilding social support networks
- Treatment staff should be interested in working with older adults
- Pace and content of treatment is appropriate for older populations
- Treatment should be linked to other medical services that serve the aging community
There should be also an emphasis on building those protective factors that promote healthy behavior and creates an empowerment mindset. That can include access to housing and healthcare, access to groups that foster strong social and community bonds, education and skills training and access to volunteer opportunities among other programs.
Substance abuse among the aging and elderly often goes unnoticed or undiagnosed, especially in longtime drug and/or alcohol users. If you, or someone you know, have an older parent, spouse or other family member, friend or someone else you are concerned about who is an older person battling addiction, call (844) 318-0071 now to speak with one of our Palm Beach Institute specialists. They can help you find a treatment program tailored to your specific needs today. They are standing by around the clock, waiting for your call.