What to do when your parent turns to drugs or alcohol? Part 2 of 3

Earlier this week, we began our three-part blog series on the increase of substance abuse in our senior population. To recap our first blog, we said so often, when we speak about addiction and finding help, we speak in terms of helping parents find help for their young-adult children. Periodically, we talk about getting help for your spouse. However, we seldom discuss what happens when it is time to find help for your parents. Part one discussed some of the reasons why addiction appears in older adults. Now, we will discuss warning signs that your parent may have a problem with drugs or alcohol.

Some of these will be easier to recognize than others based on how frequently you see your parents in person as opposed to having telephone conversations. These identifiers are often mistaken for other symptoms of aging. If you see these changes, be diligent and find out why these changes are occurring.

1 – Falls
2 – A change in appearance–looking unkempt
3 – Increased sleep
4 – Misplaced items (such as keys)
5 – Disinterest in regular activities
6 – Has their general attitude changed? Are they anxious, sullen or argumentative?
7 – Do they use multiple doctors and multiple pharmacies? Seniors are just as capable of doctor shopping as younger generations.
8 – Are they agitated or defensive if asked about their medications?
9 – Have they had a drastic increase in the amount of medication they take?
10 – Are they making excuses why they need more medication?

If your parent has surgery, ask what pain medications will be prescribed in the hospital and for post-op care at home. Check to make sure these medications will not offset or negatively affect medications prescribed for other issues. Be involved with the post-op pain management plan. Question the medical staff about the type of medication (opioid vs. Tylenol) and dosage.

Our next blog will explore speaking to your parent about drug or alcohol abuse and treatment options.

Related blog:  A Simple Explanation of Addiction.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.