Dealing with Elderly Relatives and Alcoholism

elderly man drinking a glass of water

Picking up on the subtle clues that someone you know is an alcoholic can be difficult if you’re not familiar with the signs, especially when that friend or relative is growing older in age. Symptoms of alcoholism in the elderly are often overlooked by family and healthcare professionals or mistaken for other medical conditions associated with growing old.

While it’s never healthy to consume alcohol, the risks of excessive consumption increase dramatically with age. The physiology of an aging body can amplify the effects of alcohol in the brain and other organs. Not to mention that the average senior takes between 1-2 medications daily, and dangerous interactions between alcohol and drugs may occur. For these reasons, eliminating alcohol consumption completely when older is always the safest choice.

If you suspect that an elderly loved one has an alcohol problem, one of the best ways to proceed is to simply open a dialogue with them. By discovering the motivation behind their drinking habit, you may gain some insight regarding how to handle the situation.

They may be coping with the recent death of a lifelong spouse or dealing with the physical pain of aging. You may even discover that they have not actually become dependent on alcohol, in which case persuading your loved on to stop drinking may not be as challenging.

Because this is a delicate time in your loved one’s life, any attempt to overcome an alcohol dependency issue should be coordinated and supervised by a healthcare professional. While the average, middle-aged adult can often muster through the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal on their own, these same symptoms in an elderly adult can be life-threatening. If you don’t already accompany your loved one to their medical appointments, consider attending a few with them to bring these concerns to the attention of their licensed medical practitioner.

These are some of the most important years of your loved one’s life, and you no doubt want to spend your time together wisely. Talk to your loved one about their alcohol consumption, so you can focus on what’s most important right now: making lasting memories.

Written by
Recovering Champions Editorial Team

Published on: January 17, 2018 | Edited on: August 21, 2022

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This page does not provide medical advice.