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How to Support Seniors Who are Struggling with Addiction



Why are seniors vulnerable to addiction? Substance abuse is something any person can struggle with at any age, but seniors are in a unique demographic for being at risk. The aging process is complicated and often comes with an increase of medical conditions, more instances of grief and loneliness, financial concerns, and a lack of community support.


Substance among seniors is typically classified into two general forms. One is the “hardy survivor” which is a person who has been using substances for many years and has reached an age over 65. There is also the “late onset” group, which defines seniors who form addictions later in life.


An experienced and high quality in-home caregiver can be a tremendous source of support for seniors who are struggling with addiction. Contact Alegre Home Care for a FREE consultation to see how we can help.


First — Let’s Define Addiction


Substance use disorder, also known as addiction, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. It leads to an inability to control the use of a drug — such as nicotine or alcohol — or medication. Addiction is not simply a bad habit or occasional use of a substance. It is a disease that greatly impacts all areas of a person’s life.


Let’s Go Over the Facts for Seniors


Seniors are in a unique demographic when it comes to addiction. Seniors are more likely to have access to prescription drugs and are at a higher risk of experiencing loneliness, depression, and anxiety than other age demographics. Here are some of the unique facts about seniors and addiction:

  • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol and prescription drug abuse affects up to 17% of adults over the age of 60.

  • Approximately 25% of prescription drugs in the United States are sold to seniors, and close to 11% of this population may abuse these medications.

  • Painkillers like opioid narcotics, and anti-anxiety or sedative medications, such as benzodiazepines, are some of the most commonly prescribed to and abused by this population. These types of medications are highly addictive, so even seniors who may have never struggled with addiction in their life are at risk of becoming addicted to and abusing these substances.

  • Among seniors who are alcohol dependent, suicide often occurs late in the disease, mainly related to interpersonal loss or onset of medical complications


How In-Home Caregivers Can Offer Support


First, it is important that in-home caregivers understand the signs of addiction and rule out other possibilities. It is always best to work with a senior’s doctor and care team, as well as the in-home care agency.

Common symptoms of addition in the elderly:

  • Memory problems

  • Changes in sleeping habits

  • Unexplained bruises

  • Irritability, sadness, depression

  • Unexplained chronic pain

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Wanting to be alone often

  • Neglecting hygiene

  • Losing touch with loved ones

  • Lack of interest in usual activities

  • Lying and making up excuses for behaviors

  • Hand tremors

  • Experiencing hallucinations or weird thoughts

  • Obvious intoxication, such as slurred speech, sweating, and smelling of alcohol

A qualified in-home caregiver understands that other diseases share many of these symptoms, and therefore will take extra care to rule out other potential causes.


After notifying a senior’s doctor and care team, and once it is determined that a senior is struggling with addiction, in-home caregivers can offer valuable support in several ways:


Accept the person without judgment. Any shame or judgment will most likely have the opposite effect, making addiction symptoms worse instead of better. In-home caregivers will create an opportunity for trust if they accept the seniors in their care without judgment.


Create a substance-free environment. This can be difficult when a senior is on an addictive medication. In-home caregivers can monitor medication intake, and can remove substances that could be abused, such as alcohol.


Offer a listening ear. Creating a safe space where seniors can be vulnerable about their feelings and experiences will help ease symptoms that are driving their addictions.


Encourage healthy habits. Aim to replace the habit of using a substance with a healthy activity. A healthy lifestyle will encourage healthy habits, so in-home caregivers can offer support by preparing healthy meals, encouraging exercise, and engaging their clients in creative activities.


Understand the triggers. Each person will have their own unique triggers that drive their addictions. With personalized care plans, in-home caregivers can learn which triggers cause the seniors in their care to abuse substances, and can help by reducing those triggers in the senior’s environment.


Have patience and empathy. Recovering from an addiction can be a long journey. Many people fall in and out of addictions on their road to recovery. In-home caregivers can support by remaining positive, having patience and empathy, and encouraging clients to have hope.


The Benefits of In-Home Care


Supporting seniors who struggle with addictions is just one of the ways people benefit from in-home care services. Quality in-home care from reputable agencies like Alegre Home Care are designed to help individuals age or recover from the comfort of their own home. In-home care services allow people to maintain their sense of independence and remain connected to their communities.


Being surrounded by familiar and treasured memories fuels well-being. Companionship, housekeeping, meal preparation, personal care, medication reminders, errands, and respite are just a few of the ways in-home caregivers can help people stay independent in their own homes.


If you or a loved one needs in-home care services, contact Alegre Home Care for a free consultation. We can create a personalized care plan that will address each person’s unique set of needs.


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