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Alcohol Abuse Among Elderly Research Paper


Abstract

Recently, there have been statistics showing a steady growing trend among the senior citizens. Most of these statistics are based on different research programs that have taken place especially in rehabilitation facility. This is because misuse of alcohol has been rising and the elderly have not been left behind. Generally speaking, alcohol is increasingly being used even among the elderly women.

This report tries to dissect through the many reasons as to why alcohol is secretly being abused among the elderly. It should be noted that there are many reasons that cause senior citizens to drink alcoholic beverages. The reasons emanate from loneliness, despair, as a way of mourning the loss of a loved one or even just for pleasure. These are only but some of those reasons.

The society tends to forget the elderly because of their needful nature. As people grow old, the younger generation tends to ignore their needs forgetting that the elderly also need to be loved, cherished and taken care of. Nowadays most of the senior citizens will find this only in the rehabilitation programs since everyone is busy caring about their own business.

Drinking patterns usually change as one grows older. Much as moderate drinking can be quite beneficial to the older generation, drinking may be dangerous especially if it becomes an addiction. Excessive drinking can cause serious health risks especially to the elderly who are more vulnerable.

Much as we may leave the elderly to take care of their own health, the repercussions thereafter could be greater than we think. Special attention therefore is needed to this group of people in terms of preventing, treatment and policy. A policy framework has to be designed to take care of this neglected group.

Introduction

A study into this topic indicates that the elderly due to their vulnerability in health need special attention to avoid various age related atrocities. Socio-economic, physiological and psychological problems can be caused when we chose to neglect this age group. Nowadays contrary to the former belief, the habit has been gradually and steadily growing to become more familiar to women.

As younger women continue to join in this practice, special policies should be formulated to take care of this generation so that subsequent problems will not be overwhelming in future. This is because as age advances, the number of elderly women who engage in this practice continues to rise.

The effects of moderate consumption of alcohol are more beneficial to the elderly than to the younger generations. Studies have shown that moderate drinking can be an effective tool for prevention of coronary heart diseases, heart attacks and myocardial infarction especially in older men. Moderate drinking is closely related to declining prevalence of diabetes mellitus (ICAP, 2010).

As this report reveals, the older generation is more susceptible to risk factors arising from consumption of alcohol than their younger counterparts. This is because the elderly have a generally poorer health status. Another reason is that the elderly may be subjected to medications which may interact with alcohol to cause problems in their bodies.

This report discusses how ageing affects consumption of alcohol and metabolism of alcohol in the body of the elderly. Treatment methods for this habit are basically associated with rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation programs usually offer solutions to special problems that affect the elderly people. Thus, in the body of this report contains a deeper discussion of the causes, effects and solutions to problems associated with abuse of alcohol in the elderly.

Alcohol abuse, a hidden problem in adults

The elderly people have been known to hide the habit of drinking for a long time. The prevalence of abuse of alcohol among the elderly has been reported to be lower than that of the younger generation. However this figures are wrong because it appears that this practice has been underestimated (O’Connell, 2010).

This is because most of these practices among the elderly usually go undetected or if detected might end up misdiagnosed. Healthcare workers tend to shy away from thorough investigation of the elderly.

The reasons for emergence of this habit vary. For instance, the current drinking habits of Americans differ greatly from those drinking habits before the Second World War. This is because policies have been formulated that enhance prohibition.

The rates of disorders caused by poor habits of alcoholic beverage consumption have also changed. However in poor countries there are no such policies and if present they are weak thereby causing immense trouble to the general population.

Reasons for not detecting abuse of alcohol in the elderly

These reasons are many and varied. There are some instances whereby people have been diagnosed of having alcohol related problems, yet there is no documentation of their alcohol misuse.

This is a direct evidence of undetected situation thereby exposing the fact that alcohol misuse in the elderly is quite prevalent. When accessing elderly people health workers tend to shy away from referring them to specialists. Healthcare workers do not have a high level of suspicion when they access the elderly.

In addition, the elderly do not disclose their history of alcohol misuse to health care workers that easily. Again health care practitioners may view the alcohol abnormality in the elderly as normal because of their compromised health status and also their change of life situations.

Factors contributing to alcohol abuse

Some societies believe that alcohol is one of the only leisure activity left for the elderly. Thus they consider it an understandable behavior. In such societies alcohol abuse is prevalent since there are no prohibiting factors. Isolation of the elderly is also another factor that contributes to this vice.

The elderly people usually go into isolation to do their private practice. Such practice includes drinking in their homes while they are alone. This habit does not allow medical or health practitioners to meet them and discuss matters pertaining to health. Thus they become vulnerable to heir own misgivings.

Since the elderly have retired, their problem will not affect them in their place of work. Working environment acts as a prohibitive factor to alcohol consumption. It creates a situation whereby one fears loss of the job should they be found working while under the influence of alcohol. In the elderly this fear is over for them since they retired from work.

They usually develop this habit because they are lonely and they also despair a lot. Most of the times, the elderly people are left alone with no one to take care of them. This situation makes them feel lonely and the urge for such things as alcohol will pop up. Despair is also a common situation that occurs to lonely people of this age. Thus when the elderly despair they may resort to abuse of alcohol.

Abuse of alcohol also develops in the elderly in order for them to grieve over the loss of someone they loved. Loss of a loved one is a very painful occurrence. When the elderly feel aggrieved, they usually resort to consumption of large amounts of alcohol to cool down the emotional pain. Painful injuries may also cause senior citizens to drink copious amounts of alcohol.

Depression is also another factor that can cause the elderly to drink alcohol. This emotional feeling usually comes from pain or loss of a loved one. When the elderly suffer depression they tend to withdraw to privacy. If they are not accompanied by a relative or a friend, they may resort to finding their way of relieving this depression.

Effects of alcohol abuse in the elderly

These effects are related to psychological, emotional, health and socio-economical factors. To be general, consumption of alcohol usually reduces with advancement of age. Those young people who tend to be perpetual drinkers usually reduce their alcohol consumption as they age. However light to moderate drinkers retain their stability during their later years.

There are many health risks associated with alcohol consumption. Most of these health risks have been major contributions to many deaths of the elderly. In the older generation alcohol consumption has been associated severally with injuries (ICAP, 2010). This is whereby the influence of alcoholism causes instability thereby making the person susceptible to fall and get injured through many ways.

Another risk associated with alcoholism in the elderly is the increased risk of gastric cancer. This one occurs especially in elderly women. Hormonal changes that come along with menopause in the elderly women increase the risk of breast cancer. This is worsened if the victim is an alcoholic.

Since older persons have a generally poor health status, there bodies are more responsive to negative habits such as excessive consumption of alcohol. One reason for this is that they might be prescribed medication that responds negatively to the alcohol that they consume.

In addition, as one advances in years several changes in the body come along with certain changes in physiological processes. These physiological changes can trigger some metabolism that will harm the body should there be the presence of alcohol. As an example in the ageing process, there is a decrease in total water of the body.

Since this is usually accompanied by increased body fats, there will be more concentration of alcohol in the blood. Thus for the same amount of alcohol consumed, there will be higher alcohol concentrations in the blood of the elderly compared to that in the younger persons. (ICAP, 2010)

Memory black out when using certain electronic appliances and ovens is also a problem that is quite prevalent among the senior citizens (Michael’s House, 2010). This can lead to occurrence of fire hence endangering their lives. Driving impairments is also a familiar occurrence to the elderly.

Impairments while driving motor vehicles is worsened when an elderly person becomes a heavy drinker. To add on this, confusion and depression are also clear manifestations of typical alcoholic disorders in the elderly.

Thus the elderly have poor health conditions which adversely affect their physiological changes. These poor health conditions also affect the economic and psychological conditions of the societal environment either directly or directly.

Case study

A case study was done to an elderly lady called Eva. This lady is said to have been very strict on matters concerning alcoholic beverages.

She would only take a sip of wine on extremely special occasions, not regularly. However as the years continued to advance, her children going away from her, and her husband and many of her friends passed on, she finally gave in to alcoholic beverages. Up until now, in her late 70s, she is an alcoholic.

Another example is of Harry. The guy has been consuming alcohol ever since his late teens. In the beginning he could alternate drunkenness with sobriety. However, unexpectedly, he turned out to be an addict in alcohol. Currently Harry is under medication.

The medicinal prescriptions have been caused by his addictive behavior. As a matter of fact, some of the medication is not taken with alcoholic drinks. As a result of this his children have given up dissuading him from taking alcohol. This they did severally with no fruition (O’Connell, 2010).

The above two opposite situations represent a problem being faced by the current society. As life expectancy continues to rise, more people continue to abuse alcohol in their later years. This is further compounded by the rising health problems caused by this vice.

As demographic figures change, the current generation of people at the age bracket of 25-30 will cause an increase in alcoholic use thirty or forty years down the line. Studies indicate that more elderly men use alcohol than elderly women. However, the number of women using alcoholic substance increases as they grow older. Thus women are more likely to start heavy drinking of alcohol as they age than men.

Remediation Strategies

Remediation measures include rehabilitation of drug addicts. In the past the elderly people were not considered to be able to complete rehabilitation treatments. Rehabilitation for drug addicts was only considered to be a viable phenomenon in the young people.

This is because as people would put it, it is hard to teach old dog new tricks. Another factor contributing to this as we have seen is, it is hard to convince an elderly person to join a rehabilitation program. As a matter of fact, the elderly do not take great care in their lives since they know that they are living in their latter lives.

However as events unfold, more and more elderly people have continued to successfully complete rehabilitation process. As per now the elderly have shown more success in rehabilitation programs than the young.

It should be noted however that rehabilitation programs for the elderly are quite different from those of the young people. These programs should be specific and not generalized. Thus they should be programs that offer specific help to their problems.

Prevention

Health experts together with policy makers should ensure that there is access to prevention and treatment of this habit among the elderly. Adequate training should be provided to health workers so that they can be able to recognize drinking patterns that will cause problems in the elderly.

Health care workers should also be encouraged to be courageous in handling the elderly people especially in investigating on their past and cross checking their present habits.

Another thing is to consider that elderly people tend to have a common meeting place. Health workers can visit this place to offer services which will enhance the health of these people.

This is because it is easier to reach the elderly in public places than to have a personal meeting in private. Therefore, the elderly should be encouraged to meet so that their habits can be monitored by health workers. This will help in detecting abnormal habits caused by over-consumption of alcohol.

Detection

Methods of detecting alcohol related problems in the elderly are quite different from the younger generation. Questionnaires may not adequately gauge the probability of this problem in the elderly.

This is because they do not adequately answer questions relating to behavioral changes that accompany ageing and family background (Mirand & Welte, 1996). Social participation and declined levels of productivity are among many other questions that these methods may not discern.

For these reasons, social scientists have teamed up with doctors to come up with a more reliable method for detecting alcoholism. For instance, the attack by specific diseases and interaction of specific medicines with alcohol are the most recent tools they use in the diagnosis.

Treatment

Similarly, just as screening, treatment requires special attention to be given to certain areas. Currently there has been modification of some treatment facility so as to suit special needs of the elderly. The modification takes into consideration factors such as limited mobility. Generally, personal care is a more effective tool that can be utilized to treat this type of habit.

The choice of a rehabilitation program should be carefully considered before chosen. Rather than go into a mainstream rehab facility, it is better to go to a rehab program which will address the specific needs of the person. As we have been able to see, the main reason for offering personal services is because the elderly tend to be very private in matters concerning their private life.

Treatment of this habit can either be voluntary or involuntary. When the elderly person decides by himself to choose enroll in a rehabilitation centre, this situation is termed as voluntary

. Involuntary treatment occurs when for example a court ruling may order the subject to counseling methods as it may deem fit. If convectional treatment fails, alternative methods have to be considered. Family physicians can help a great deal in formulating a way to end the problem.

Conclusion and Recommendations

In conclusion therefore, it has been noted that the secret and growing vice of alcoholic abuse is quite prevalent in the modern society. The elderly use alcohol as a means to satisfy some of their basic societal needs. Across the globe, it has been studied that more and more ladies increasingly become alcohol addicts as they age. In men however the habit usually begins while they are still young.

The factors that contribute to alcoholic abuse in the elderly include their isolation status which makes the practice more private. The society also contributes to this habit as some communities across the globe believe that the old people are left with alcohol as one of their leisure activities.

Policy makers are therefore required to team up with health care providers to make sure that senior citizens get healthcare protection. Again it is important that the facilities present should be sensitive enough to detect and respond to the changing needs of the ageing population.

Reference List

ICAP, (2010). International Centre for Alcohol Policies. Web.

Michael’s House, (2010). . Web.

Mirand, A. & Welte, J., (1996). Alcohol Consumption among the elderly in a General Population, Erie County, New York, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 86.

O’Connell, H., (2010). Alcohol Use Disorders in Elderly People-Redefining an Age Old Problem in Old Age. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Alcohol Abuse Among Elderly." November 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/alcohol-abuse-among-elderly/.

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