Protecting Older Loved Ones From Substance Abuse
When you take care of your aging parents you are paying back all the years of love and care they took in raising you. You are also doing something out of love. You care for your parents and want them to be safe and comfortable as they age. Whether or not an older parent lives with you, you hope to be an advocate, a caregiver and someone on whom they can rely. What you probably never thought you would have to worry about is substance abuse. Statistics show that older Americans are abusing drugs more than in any previous generation. How do you know if your mom or dad is taking part in this trend and how do you prevent it?
Substance Abuse In Older Americans
It may seem unlikely, but substance abuse is a real problem in the aging population today. If you have a parent to care for, you should be aware of the issue.
Senior Prescription Drug Abuse
Thirty percent of older Americans take at least five different prescription medications every day, which means they have numerous opportunities to abuse prescription drugs. Abuse of prescriptions is one of the biggest substance abuse problems among the older population. Hospitalization of older patients for prescription-related problems rose nearly 100 percent over a decade from 1997 to 2008.
Senior Alcohol Abuse
The other major type of substance abuse among older adults is alcohol. Access and habit can help to explain why older adults abuse prescriptions and alcohol. Many older people grew up at a time when drinking a cocktail after work every day was considered normal behavior. Depending on the population studied, between 3 and 25 percent of older Americans drink heavily. A particular concern is the combination of alcohol and prescription drugs.
Protect Your Parents From Substance Abuse And Addiction
It is important to understand that there is an issue when it comes to older Americans and substance abuse. You should also understand what makes older adults susceptible to abuse and addiction so that you can protect your parents and any other older loved ones. One reason they may become hooked on drugs is the prevalence of prescriptions. Older people are often prescribed medications, such as painkillers, which are highly addictive. With pain from arthritis, surgery or falls, older adults are more likely than younger people to be prescribed these painkillers.
Another issue with older people is loneliness. As we age our social circles begin to shrink. Many older adults find themselves more alone than ever before. Depression is also a problem as they lose friends or a spouse. Turning to drugs or alcohol to mitigate feelings of sadness, depression and loneliness is not uncommon.
To protect your parents from the possibility of substance abuse or even addiction, it is important that you counteract the factors that make them vulnerable. Monitor the prescriptions that your parents use and talk to their doctors about whether any of them can be abused or are addictive. If any of them are, talk to your parents about the possibility of getting addicted to them. Check with with doctor also to see if any can safely be switched over to a less-addictive prescription
Perhaps most importantly, spend time with your older loved ones. Changing social circumstances can make a powerful impact and you can make a difference. In addition to spending time with them, also encourage your parents to seek out social activities. Get them involved in senior centers where they can meet new people. An active social life, combined with your love and attention, will go a long way toward helping your parents feel good about life. These actions will also help protect them from the growing dangers of substance abuse.
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