What to do when your parent turns to drugs or alcohol? Part 1 of 3

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. This three-part series will explain why substance abuse is prevalent among our senior population, how to recognize when a parent is abusing drugs and finally, how to approach them about seeking help.

Very quietly, over the past several years, more and more, older adults are turning to drugs and alcohol for comfort and becoming dependent on these substances. Nearly 10,000 individuals are turning 65 on a daily basis and many are retiring, which compounds the issue. Here are a few reasons why our seniors and retirees are abusing drugs/alcohol.

1 – Many of us are “used” to taking medication for a variety of medical issues as well as aches and pains. As we age, the number of pills we take daily also tends to increase. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for seniors to increase the number of highly-addictive opioid painkillers they are taking, or turn to alcohol to numb their physical pain.

2 – Just like younger generations, substance abuse can be triggered by a stressor. In seniors, the most common stressors are financial or health concerns, the strain of being a caregiver to another ailing family member or the death of a spouse.

3 – Boredom is also a common thread among seniors who abuse alcohol. Empty nesters without the support of nearby family, limited financial means and limited or few hobbies can translate to boredom for many retirees. If someone is accustomed to having happy hour with friends after work, the happy hour may start at home much earlier in the day.

If you have a parent who will soon be retiring, ask them about their social and financial plans for retirement. If they don’t have a plan, encourage them to pick up hobbies or do volunteer work to help keep them active and engaged with other individuals.

Related Blog:  Addiction and Family

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.