People in their sixties and beyond have special health issues that fall under the umbrella of geriatric medicine. Even people who remain vigorous and energetic into their centenarian years find that new concerns surface involving their bodies’ stamina, fitness and healing abilities.
If you’re close to a senior whose special health needs include an alcohol detox program, here’s what you can do to help them find the best treatment option:
Consider addiction history and health issues.
There are three common scenarios involving seniors who need to go to an alcohol detox center:
- They’ve denied existing alcoholism for years. Now, however, major life changes such as new health issues, retirement or the birth of grandchildren have them thinking that alcohol detox treatment centers might be key to a longer and more enjoyable future.
- They were social drinkers for decades with no problems, but when their body aged out of some of its alcohol tolerance (a common issue for men over 65), they kept drinking at the same level. (Seniors also run special risks if they start new medication and neglect to consider its potential interactions with their “regular” doses of alcohol.)
- They were never heavy drinkers before, but turn to the bottle to numb emotional pain triggered by life changes (widowhood, retirement, loss of status).
The reason someone develops alcoholism—as well as how long they’ve been drinking, any family history of drug use, and any physical health issues—will affect how well they respond to treatment, what alcohol detox program serves them best, and what sort of aftercare they will need.
Consider financial options.
Treatment for chemical addictions is included in most health insurance coverage. Seniors needing alcohol detox treatment should also check their options for Medicare and other financial assistance programs for elders.
If part of the fees for an alcohol detox clinic has to be paid at the patient’s own expense, be aware that many seniors have a terror of spending their retirement funds on medical needs—of regaining their health only to find they have nothing else left. If this is a concern, focus on less expensive, no-frills detox centers. Also consider money-raising possibilities (if there’s already been the talk of moving to a smaller place in retirement, this may be the perfect time for a big garage sale). And be clear on what income (such as Social Security) will continue after retirement.
Consider potential problems with “fitting in.”
Few people really want alcohol detox treatment options (or any other organized program) where they’re the sole representatives of their demographic. When investigating potential detox centers, remember to ask what percentage of their clients are seniors. (Focusing on alcohol detox treatment programs that work with seniors will also ensure the medical staff is familiar with geriatric health needs.)
Check, also, that when detox is complete your loved one has access to a peer support group of real peers. Even if you have to chauffeur to an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter across town when there’s a younger group meeting at the church around the corner, it’ll be worth it for your loved one to have regular contact with people who personally understand the struggles of getting older. The more time people spend with empathetic friends, the healthier and happier they are—and the less vulnerable to relapse.
Consider personal dignity.
Often the biggest problem seniors face in making the decision to seek out an alcohol detox facility is that others—even those closest to them—fail to take the need seriously. Younger people too easily believe faulty reasoning on the drug and alcohol detox needs of seniors:
- “That generation doesn’t have problems like that.” (Actually, 2.5 million Americans of senior age need the services of drug or alcohol detox centers. Alcohol, in particular, has caused addiction issues since the earliest days of civilization.)
- “That behavior [secretiveness/loss of initiative/coordination difficulties/memory problems] is the price of reaching that age.” (It’s true these symptoms don’t always indicate alcoholism, but they do mean some sort of problem, and just because someone is of a “certain age” doesn’t mean the problem is untreatable.)
- “She can’t live much longer anyway. What’s the sense of taking away her last source of comfort?” (No one is ever too old to get a worthwhile return on their remaining years or months. If someone is drinking due to old-age depression, what they need is alcohol detox followed by encouragement to discover new interests and share their gifts.)
Perhaps worse than brushing off a senior’s need for alcohol detox treatment is regarding them as too “senile” to think for themselves, and making the decision for them without allowing them any input. Even elders with genuine dementia usually know when they’re being patronized, and many people well over eighty still have perfectly sound minds. Ask your loved one what he or she would like in a treatment center, take them to visit potential alcohol detox facilities, and encourage them to consider what they’d like to do after completing the program. Help them plan for a future where sobriety is a key element of truly golden years!
Inland Detox offers information on drug and alcohol detox for people of all ages. Call 888-739-8296 with your questions.