Nursing Home Alcoholism
Alcohol isn’t just consumed by the young. Senior citizens drink too, and sometimes too much. Growing towards old age brings about a lot of changes, and for some, a lot of sorrow. Many senior citizens don’t have the connections between family and friends as they once used to. Many in the nursing home community are on their own or widowed, which can bring about an urge to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Others are physically hurting from getting older and use alcohol’s sedative effects to temporarily relieve the physical pain.
Alcohol use is a pattern that carries into old age, and eventually into nursing homes. Most nursing home residents are not constrained to the home. They are allowed to come and go as they please. If a liquor store isn’t too far away, empty bottles scattered around their room might be the result. Friends and family members that come to visit can also feed the senior citizen’s habit.
The majority of senior citizens take medication to deal with the pain that comes with getting older. Most medications warn against mixing with alcohol. Considering some medications are taken throughout the day and many impact memory, it can be very hard to follow these rules. Senior citizens may accidentally mix alcohol with their medication if they forget when they last took their last dose, making it even more dangerous to drink.
Nursing homes want their guests to feel comfortable, not restrict their daily activities. As a result, they are usually less strict on what their residents do in their free time, often disregarding the amount of alcohol consumed, and the drinking problems that follow.
The amount of alcohol allowed varies between nursing homes. Some homes ban alcohol entirely, while others actively provide it during celebrations. Homes that allow or provide alcohol may be afraid that residents will check out if their alcohol consumption is restricted. However, allowing alcohol encourages senior residents to drink, which can quickly become problematic now that they have the time and desire. Not having some to monitor their drinking can contribute to more physical problems that would otherwise easily be avoided.
The debate of whether it is appropriate to serve alcohol to senior citizens as instructed by family members without a doctor’s prescription or requested by the senior citizen alone, continues. The topic is controversial with many agreeing to let the patient have what they want, considering their lack of responsibilities. Others believe alcohol consumption is not properly supervised in most facilities, allowing too much drinking and causing further organ damage as it mixes with their medicine.
Another concern is the immediate effects of alcohol in senior citizens. Alcohol can be the cause of memory impairment and accidents and falls. Nursing homes that chose to serve alcohol to their residents should carefully observe those who are intoxicated, as this can prevent accidents from the inefficiency of older bodies at metabolizing alcohol.
If you are concerned with assisted living homes serving alcohol to a senior citizen you love, you may want to seek out one that does not allow alcohol. As a family member, you can request that alcohol be served to your loved one, or request that staff refrain from giving them alcohol.
There is very little research on just how much senior citizens are abusing alcohol within nursing homes. Residents might feel more inclined to drink alcohol at a higher amount within a nursing home than if they were alone at home because they are paying for someone to take care of them, minimizing the risks of drinking alcohol in their mind. Additionally, many drink socially in nursing homes, where they would privately at home. This mindset can unintentionally cause an overabundance of drinking, resulting in even greater damage.
Talk to your elder and the staff at their nursing home about the effects of alcohol and what is best for your loved one. Everyone is unique and alcohol can affect everybody in different ways. The best solution is to determine how alcohol would affect your loved one, based on tolerance, body type, health issues, and age. Remember, it is never recommended to mix medication with alcohol; this is something to take into consideration when deciding if alcohol should be given to your loved one at a nursing home.
A Place for Mom. (2015). Alcoholism in Seniors. Retrieved on April 25th 2018 from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-9-16-senior-living-alcohol/
Assisted Living. (2013). Should Assisted Living Communities Serve Alcohol? Retrieved on April 25th 2018 from https://www.assistedliving.com/assisted-living-facilities-serving-alcohol/
NCADD. (2015). Alcohol, Drug Dependence, and Seniors. Retrieved on April 25th 2018 from https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/seniors/alcohol-drug-dependence-and-seniors
The New York Times. (2012). Drinking in Assisted Living. Retrieved on April 25th 2018 from https://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/drinkers-in-assisted-living/
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