Alcoholism and the Elderly

Most medical experts believe that alcoholism in the elderly population of the United States is underreported and underdiagnosed. While some individuals have dealt with alcohol issues throughout their lives, a surprising number of seniors develop the problem in their later years. Many turn to alcohol as a way to deal with health problems and emotional issues due to age and circumstances. Family caregivers with elderly relatives must understand how important it is to learn as much as they can about alcoholism and the elderly.


Home Care Services in Matthews NC: Alcoholism and the Elderly

Home Care Services in Matthews NC: Alcoholism and the Elderly


How Alcohol Affects the Elderly Physically

Alcohol produces a different effect on the aging body than in younger adults. That’s because the body undergoes many physical changes with age. For example, elderly people have less lean tissue and body fluids so the alcohol raises the blood levels more. Organs in an aging body, like the brain and the heart, are more sensitive to alcohol intake as well. These and other physical issues mean that elderly adults have a reduced tolerance for alcohol.


Many seniors turn to alcohol to deal with emotional and physical pain. Even though alcohol is a depressant it stimulates the brain’s neurotransmitters and endorphins are released. Endorphins stimulate feelings of happiness, pleasure, and comfort. When an elderly person drinks regularly, the body gets used to the flood of endorphins and craves more. This leads to alcohol dependency and eventually to alcohol abuse.


Alcoholism Risk Factors in the Elderly

Chronic drinkers are those that consume excessive amounts of alcohol, and in the elderly population, there are certain risk factors that family caregivers can watch out for. Among seniors, women are more likely to develop alcohol dependency than men and are more likely to binge drink. Elderly adults that are suffering from one or more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, are more likely to take up drinking as a way to deal with their poor health.

Those with a history of alcohol abuse or even successfully going sober in the past are also at risk. Finally, elderly adults that have recently undergone a series of traumatic events such as the death of a spouse, significant medical diagnosis, empty nest syndrome or a traumatic injury are also at risk.


Recognizing Alcoholism in the Elderly

Family caregivers need to learn to recognize the signs of alcoholism in their elderly relative because they are usually the first to notice a pattern. Without treatment, alcohol abuse can lead to a number of other health issues, not to mention accidents like slip and fall injuries.

According to dietary and medical guidelines, elderly adults over the age of 65 should be limited to no more than two standard drinks per day. Common signs of alcohol abuse in the elderly include exhibiting signs of drunkenness, mixing alcohol with prescription meds, lying about the number of drinks consumed, hiding alcohol bottles and becoming irritable and angry when they are sober.

Family caregivers that suspect their elderly relative is abusing alcohol need to connect with a doctor right away and talk about senior-oriented rehabilitation programs and recovery efforts before more damage is done to their elderly loved one’s health and wellness.


If you or someone you know needs home care services in Matthews, NC, contact the caregivers at Affordable HomeCare.  We provide quality and affordable care for many disabled and elderly loved-ones in our community.
Call us at (704) 323-5454 for more information.



About Ted Nagraba

I am the Owner of Affordable HomeCare of Charlotte, North Carolina. Affordable HomeCare provides an alternative to the traditional solutions of nursing homes or other retirement institutions. Now, even with physical limitations, you can live the most independent and enjoyable life possible. With our personalized live-in or hourly care, you can continue to live in the comfort of your own home.