Alcoholism on the rise in the elderly: Give your time and company this season, not booze

Instead of giving an expensive bottle of wine to grandpa this Christmas, why not give him your time? It’s far more valuable, and your company will surely make him happier. Calling Time, a study on the discrimination in alcohol policies and practices, reports that alcohol drinking among pensioners is on the rise.

The study reports that Scottish and English adults aged 55- to 64-years-old consume more alcohol than any other group, most likely exceeding recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption. While people wouldn’t want to take a bottle of booze from an elderly man’s hands, it may be necessary especially because of all the health risks that may amplify the physical and mental aspects of aging. Furthermore, excessive alcohol intake is known to heighten the risk of chronic diseases.

Most people would relate harmful drinking to a homeless “alcoholic” man on the street, late nights out, hangovers, football fans, stag parties, missed work, or binge drinking. On the contrary, younger people these days tend to focus more on trips to the gym or sports activities versus “happy hours”. The tendency for older people to drink “out of sight” has increased among the elderly (64- to 75-years-old), most likely due to loneliness or plain boredom. While we all strive for longevity, needless alcohol consumption contradicts it.

For alcoholics, options such as rehabilitation and group therapy sessions are well within reach. However, the elderly may not consider rehabilitation and therapy as an immediate solution to their excessive alcohol habits. According to the study published in Drink Wise, Age Well, individuals over 65 are excluded from clinical trials for alcohol treatment. Some elderly people feel intimidated by rehabilitation centers because they have to share rooms with younger people. Most medical practitioners, in a survey, believe that retired people are too old to change, and it would be wrong to deprive them of their “only pleasure”.

Julie Breslin, head of the Drink Wise, Age Well program, asked U.K. medical officers to include advice for older people in published drinking guidelines. While this has not yet been implemented, adoption of the guidelines will make great progress towards helping people age healthier. The goal of the study is to ensure that the aging population is accommodated by policies and recommendations on alcohol consumption in order to promote good health.

In lieu of unhealthy food and alcoholic beverages, families can gift their time and company to their parents who loved and raised them. Being in a special home for the aged is lonely, even when surrounded by fellow pensioners. Those who live alone in their own homes may also feel depressed, hence the risk of excessive alcohol consumption in the elderly. People should also start considering keeping their elders in their homes, since families could take better care of them compared to nurses and caregivers who don’t have any relation to them. Older adults may find more happiness, content, and overall health when close to their families.

Fast facts

  • In the U.S., there are only 3.6 percent of people over the age of 65 living in nursing homes. Men are more likely to live with a spouse while women tend to live alone.
  • Four out of five elderly people have chronic diseases. Excessive alcohol consumption only aggravates these conditions.
  • One out of ten senior citizens are physically, emotionally, and psychologically abused at nursing homes by caregivers.
  • President Donald J. Trump declared May of this year as Older Americans Month.

Distance may be one reason for the lack of visitation, but should not be an excuse. People have their reasons for sending their elderly to nursing homes, including work conflicts and lack of knowledge on caring for older adults. Families may not have the time in their hands, but holidays should be spent with family, not with nurses and caregivers. We have more time than they have – let’s make the most of what they have left.

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