Does Your Grandparent Have an Addiction Problem? What You Can Do
When someone in your family has an addiction, life can be a real struggle for you, as well as everyone else in your family. However, the problem can be taken to a new level when it is your grandparent with the addiction. The same is true if you’re a parent, and you’re concerned about your child’s grandparent having an addiction. Either way, this is someone you have been close to your entire life, most likely. Grandparents are people we look up to, and we expect that they will be a source of stability in our lives.
Even so, drugs and alcohol can be brutal, and they frequently “choose” their victims among the people we love the most.
The question is, what should you do about this problem? You may be wondering if there really is anything you can do. You’re desperate to find an answer, and you’d love nothing more than to wave a magic wand and make this issue disappear for good. Unfortunately, that’s not at all the way that it works, and it’s important for you to know the steps you should take in this situation.
At Northpoint Recovery, we know the pain you’re feeling right now. The fact that you have an addicted grandparent most likely weighs on you night and day, and you feel as though you’re stuck at caring for someone who has no desire to change or get better. Knowing how to properly identify an addiction, learning as much about addiction as you can, and finding out how to get your grandmother or grandfather the right kind of help are the key things that you need to be concerned with right now.
Senior Addiction Statistics in the United States
Most people assume that senior addiction really isn’t a problem in the United States, but the statistics certainly tell a different story. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the statistics indicate that:
- In the U.S., there are 2.5 million elderly individuals who struggle with substance abuse.
- As many as 11% of senior hospital admissions are because of drug or alcohol problems.
- 14% of elderly emergency room visits are due to substances.
- 20% of elderly psychiatric hospitalizations are due to some type of addiction.
- The highest rates of alcoholism in the United States are because of widows over the age of 75.
- Elderly individuals are hospitalized for alcohol related issues just as often as they’re hospitalized for heart attacks.
- Benzodiazepines are the most commonly abused prescription medications among the elderly.
- There are 17 million prescriptions for tranquilizers written for seniors every year.
These statistics might surprise you, but it’s clear that drug and alcohol addiction is a bigger problem among seniors than most people realize.
At times, it may feel like you’re all alone in the situations you’re dealing with because of your grandparent’s addiction. However, there are many others just like you who are all facing the same issues.
Identifying Substance Abuse and Addiction in Seniors
You might be aware that your grandparent is using substances, but the fact is that sometimes the line between abuse and addiction can be somewhat blurred. It can be hard to figure out if a loved one is struggling with an addiction, but there are some key signs you can look for to help you determine whether or not this is the case.
If your grandparent has an addiction, you might notice that:
- He or she is secretive about drinking or drug use.
- There seems to be a ritual assigned to drinking before, with or after eating a meal.
- Bouts of memory loss or confusion.
- Frequent and chronic health issues that could be related to substance abuse.
- Exhibiting slurred speech.
- Finding empty liquor or beer bottles.
- Frequently taking prescription medications, even when they don’t seem to be necessary.
- Drinking alcohol while taking prescription drugs.
- Losing interest in favorite activities or hobbies.
- Exhibiting hostile behaviors.
- Demonstrating symptoms of depression
If you notice any of the above, it’s possible that your grandparent does have an addiction. If you need more information, it can also be helpful to take a family addiction quiz that can help you understand even more about the possibility of addiction.
Reasons Grandparents Become Addicted to Substances
There are many different reasons why seniors might become addicted to drugs or alcohol later on in life when substances were never a problem for them when they were younger. The stresses that affect this population are often foreign to their younger family members, so it’s difficult to understand what they’re going through. However, senior citizens often face a lot of new trials and changes in their lives as they get older. For example:
- They may have recently lost a spouse and become a widow or widower.
- They may be missing their children because they’ve grown up and left home.
- They may have recently retired from a job they’ve had for a long time.
- They may have had to move into a new, smaller home.
- They may have lost touch with many of their closest friends.
- They may be experiencing problems with their health.
As more and more challenges are thrown their way, it can be difficult to cope, and substances provide seniors with a way to escape what they’re going through. Even so, it’s also important to remember that some elderly people will actually become addicted to some types of drugs by accident. Certain types of prescription drugs (such as Xanax or Vicodin) can easily lead to addiction, even when they are being taken appropriately. If your grandparent has been prescribed one of these medications for a long period of time, addiction is actually quite likely.
The Short and Long-Term Effects of Drugs and Alcohol For the Elderly
For the most part, alcohol and prescription drugs are among the biggest concerns for the elderly, as far as substance abuse goes. These substances can have a dramatic effect on older, and they can lead to many short and long term effects. Some of the short-term effects include:
- Problems with memory
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Becoming depressed or sad
- Experiencing irritability
- Unexplained chronic pain
- Unexplained bruises on the body
As time goes on, some of the long-term effects of substance abuse are likely to set in, and at that point, you may notice:
- Deteriorating mental health
- Changes in your grandparent’s personal relationships
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Significant heart problems
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
Those in the elderly population are at a great risk when they make the decision to start using drugs or alcohol, and they are usually unaware of these risks. You’re right to want to help your grandparent get the help that he or she needs.
Talking With Your Grandparent About Drug and Alcohol Addiction
It makes sense that you would want to talk with your grandparent about getting help for the addiction, but you need to know that you will be met with some resistance. A drug or alcohol addiction is serious, and your grandparent may feel that it doesn’t make any sense for him or her to get treatment at their age. Regardless, you need to know how to have this important conversation.
To begin, make sure you choose a time when your grandparent is sober. It won’t benefit either of you if you have the conversation when he or she is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Before you sit down to have the talk, have a plan in place so you know what you are going to say. Avoid blaming your grandparent for the addiction, but talk about how it’s affecting you both, and stress the need to get professional help. Above all, remain calm and make sure your grandmother or grandfather knows that your concerns are coming from a place of love.
Assistance to Help Your Grandparent Agree to Alcohol and Drug Treatment
If your grandparent is resistant to what you have to say, that is to be expected. Many times, families will talk about these issues with elderly family members over and over again, but the behaviors don’t change. If that seems to be what happens in your situation, then it’s important for you not to keep dwelling on it. Instead, you may want to consider having an intervention.
During an intervention, you and other members of your family and possibly close friends will sit down with your grandparent and talk about your concerns. The meeting will be overseen by an interventionist who will make sure everyone stays on topic. You’ll have the opportunity to talk about your concerns, and others will too.
Interventions are very powerful, and your grandparent will be able to get help right afterwards if he or she wants to. If not, then you’ll be instructed about various boundaries you will need to put in place to encourage your grandparent to get help.
Substance Abuse Treatment for the Elderly: What to Expect
When your grandmother or grandfather goes to get professional help for the addiction, there are a number of different methods of treatment he or she will experience. These include:
- Getting individual therapy from a professional counselor who will help to address the reasons behind the addiction.
- Group therapy that allows for peer counseling, which has been so helpful in the lives of others with addictions.
- Detox services, if that is deemed to be necessary.
- Therapeutic forms of treatment that will aid in recovery
- Making plans for ongoing treatment.
Support for Family Members of Addicts: Getting Help for Yourself
It’s common for families to ignore their own needs when they have a family member who is suffering with an addiction. However, this is something you want to avoid. It’s important for you to get professional help for yourself as well. This might mean making an appointment with a counselor so that you can talk about everything you’re going through. It could also mean going to an Al-Anon meeting, which is an organization that offers help to the families of addicts through peer counseling. There are Al-Anon meetings all over the United States, and finding one near you is very easy.
The worst thing you can do is to choose not to take care of yourself during this time. You’ve been through so much, and getting help for yourself is vital to your own health and happiness.
Senior Drug and Alcohol Rehab: The Best Option for Your Grandparent
It’s so hard to deal with the situation when you have a grandparent who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol. This is someone you have always had the utmost respect for, and you have so many fond memories together. Knowing that this individual is struggling with an addiction is heartbreaking, not to mention extremely frustrating for you. You may watch your grandparent suffer, and feel compelled to do something about it, but there is only so much you can do unless your grandmother or grandfather makes the decision to get professional help for the addiction.
At Northpoint Recovery, our goal is always to offer assistance to anyone who comes to us in need of help. There have been many elderly individuals who have walked through our doors because they desperately needed addiction treatment. We offer senior rehab, which is designed to specifically meet the unique needs of someone who is a little bit older. The type of substance abuse treatment that works well for the younger population isn’t always right for the elderly, and we’ve taken the steps to ensure that all of our patients receive targeted treatment that helps them in the various ways that will benefit them the most.
Is senior rehab something you’re interested in learning more about? Do you have an addicted grandparent in need of rehab or an intervention? Regardless of what your needs are, we want to help you. Please contact us to get started.