There is a section of the people that is overlooked as far as alcoholism is concerned. For those that have this problem it is well hidden and not thought of as a problem. Actually this is a medical and social problem that is not recognized as ever being there. It has been a problem as long as life itself. Alcoholism in senior citizens or, the proper term, elder alcoholism, is an unseen health hazard.
Most people do not understand, or want to understand, what alcoholism is and close their eyes to it because they don’t want to see it or recognize that it is there. But, a deep down look at the definition of alcoholism will enlighten people. Alcoholism: A disorder characterized by the consumption of and dependence on alcoholic beverages, leading to physical and psychological harm and impaired social and vocational functioning. Everyone who looks at that definition think of a younger person, not a senior citizen. However, the senior citizen probably started the habit at a young age and it has carried over into the elder age.
Look at a group of individuals that many people have forgotten. The Viet Nam Veteran and vets before that era. In Viet Nam there was a lot of alcohol and drugs and many, if not most, dabbled in it at one time or another. It was plentiful, easy to obtain and cheap. A lot of it carried over into civilian life and now these people are seniors. Family and friends have seen these people dazed and out of it for years and now it is normal to see them this way, not realizing they are called a “functioning drunk”.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends individuals 65 years of age and older do not consume more than one alcoholic drink per day. That is like telling the individual to put out a stove fire with a teaspoon of water. It will never happen with the individual who needs that drink in order (as they will tell you) “to stay well”.
The individual that have alcohol withdrawal is in deep trouble until the next round of alcohol comes around. The dictionary say this about alcohol withdrawal: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as two hours after the last drink, persist for weeks and range from mild anxiety and shakiness to severe complications, such as seizures and delirium tremens (known as DTs). Medications make these conditions much, much worst, especially for the elderly. Normally the doctor prescribes medications without knowing about the alcoholism. More can be found at: www.agingcare.com
Alcohol increases the falls and dementia in the elderly and, with the changes in body fat and water in the elderly, causes a weaker tolerance level. Medications, without the alcohol, may cause drowsiness, falls, blackouts, trembles and other side effects. Alcohol, without medications, may cause drowsiness, falls, blackouts, trembles and other side effects. Put them both together and everything is doubled and the likelihood of death is very possible. For more insights into this, among other numerous sites go to: www.alcoholic.org
Some doctors will diagnose medications thinking the patient has Alzheimer’s or dementia, not knowing the patient suffers from alcohol induced dementia. In the elderly, this can be a very dangerous situation (naming only one such probable situation) like forgetting about cooking in the kitchen causing heavy smoke or fire. It is important to talk with the doctor and/or pharmacist before consuming alcohol to avoid potential problems. These problems will sooner or later occur and will not go away. The only way to solve the problem is to STOP. If there is a problem stopping, seek help and do it now.