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Carlton Senior Living | January 22, 2016 | By Jonita Dixon

Finding the Proper Assisted Living Facility If Your Parent Struggles With Alcohol Abuse

senior-and-young-holding-handsAccording to information from The Research on Aging study, just under 30 percent of all seniors living in assisted living facilities are likely to make poor decisions in relation to how much alcohol they consume. Such a study involved assessing communities without assessing the policies such communities maintained concerning alcohol consumption.

Some facilities that allow residents to drink if a doctor offers permission, and these same facilities have special spots on the premises where the elderly can partake of their favorite alcoholic beverages. Other facilities disallow alcohol use entirely.

When it comes to alcohol abuse and the elderly, identifying a potential problem becomes tricky, and if a person does have a problem with drinking, if they want to drink badly enough, the individual can prove quite ingenious when looking for methods of getting alcohol.

Seniors might not willingly volunteer a problem to their doctor and the common physical indicators that might suggest a drinking problem can be confused with the side effects of medication or the symptoms of disorders that are common in the elderly. It is not always possible to turn to family members in an effort to find out if a problem exists. This is especially true because sometimes, family members are in denial about the issue.

The Choices

If your parent has always been a responsible drinker and is adamant about being able to drink at leisure, finding a facility that allows for alcoholic consumption might be the right option for you and your family. It’s a great idea to discuss your options with your parent’s physician and to adhere to the doctor’s recommendations, since the doctor will know best what will serve your parent well in the way of maintaining physical and psychological well-being.

If your parent’s doctor feels alcohol should be avoided, find an assisted living facility that disallows alcohol but that also provides entertaining things for your parent to do in order to fill in the void.

The Elderly and Alcoholism Onset

Some individuals move through their entire adult lives without ever having trouble with excess drinking, then, after reaching the golden years, an issue with alcoholism develops gradually. Usually, those who experience alcoholism in their earlier years are genetically predisposed or exposed to environmental factors that contribute to the onset of early alcoholism. In contrast, when alcoholism occurs late in life, it is not usually due to a genetic propensity for the disease, but it is triggered by one or more environmentally triggering conditions. Such conditions can include stress, loneliness, life changes, regret, remorse, and/or all of the latter.

Sometimes illnesses, physical pain, and lack of mobility or the slow loss of one’s ability to remain entirely independent can feed into a problem with alcohol. To make matters worse, as we age our bodies react to alcohol differently. If the elderly also has a disorder like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it can become impossible to control and deal with the condition.

Assisted living facilities and the families and communities counting on them need to have policies and support systems in place in order to help prevent the onset of alcoholism in seniors. Having special programs where the senior can participate in projects, be entertained, socialize, and have fun things to do can serve as a deterrent from drinking. In the event an elderly person has a problem with alcohol, a discussion with the person’s doctor is recommended to decide the best course of treatment.

Seniors and the Prevention of Alcohol Abuse

While there certainly are health benefits one can derive from drinking in moderation, the key is moderation and that is a measure different for everyone. In fact, the notion of moderation is just as much subjective as it is objective. What might seem like “only a couple of drinks” and moderate alcohol consumption for one person can prove an entirely different lot for another person. To make the problem even more complex, we want to allow and even promote the autonomy of every elderly person living in a facility.

It is important to continue to encourage a person to remain as independent as possible. To promote independence, the individual needs to be encouraged to make reasonable decisions, and controlling the right to consume alcohol is bordering on infringing on a person’s right to choose.

With such a complex problem at hand, it might well be advised to focus on preventing abuse and dependence as well as sensible drinking, instead of making an effort to restrict it.