Most of us enjoy indulging our favourite tipple now and again and doing so can be an enjoyable way to unwind. However, the urge to imbibe can become problematic for some – and it is important to keep an eye on this as we age! After all, alcohol comes in third place when it comes to lifestyle risk factors for death and disease in the UK, following only smoking and obesity. What is more, spotting misuse of alcohol among our elder loved ones can be tricky. Some symptoms can be confused with other age-related issues, while changes to the body that comes with getting older may mean a lower tolerance to alcohol.
At times, we or our loved ones may feel tempted to use alcohol as a form of self-medication. This can be particularly so in those facing the challenges of later life, such as physical discomfort, ailing health, loneliness, depression, or bereavement. But as tempting as this may be, it is a strategy that is more likely to hinder than help when it comes to well-being. With that in mind, here we will explore why keeping our intake of bevvies in check is so important, as well as how to approach the topic with loved ones, should we become concerned.
The Dangers Of Having Too Much To Drink
As pleasant as we may find the experience of consuming alcohol, our bodies bear the brunt of dealing with this intoxicating substance’s more negative qualities. In the shorter term, we will likely deal with dehydration, and possible weight gain thanks to the calories within those adult beverages. Tooth decay is a common impact experienced by those who drink excessively, as is high blood pressure.
Within our bodies, our pancreas can become inflamed, increasing risk of diabetes, and our heart damaged, making it more difficult for blood to be pumped to where it is needed. Risk of both cancer and metabolic syndrome increase. Meanwhile, our livers are subjected to a particular barrage of stress, which can result in atrial fibrillation, increasing danger of blood clot and stroke. Over time, damage to the liver caused by alcohol can lead to fatty liver disease, and eventually cirrhosis of the liver, in which scar tissue gradually replaces healthy liver tissue, which means both permanent and dangerous damage.
Alcohol As We Age
Because our loved ones may go through changes as they get older, we could find that the effects of alcohol are masked. Confusion, forgetfulness, or clumsiness may ring alarm bells about a new medication, or even the onset of dementia, without triggering concern over alcohol intake. If they have always been a social drinker, we may not spot that their tolerance has reduced, or that their consumption has crept up. For those who are self-medicating with alcohol, an increase in drinking may be kept hidden. Being alert to the risk and practising compassionate observation can help us to notice when support is needed. We can also try to be aware of what may be triggering an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in our elder loved ones, allowing us to tackle the problem in a multi-faceted way.
Reacting To Signs Of A Problem
If you are concerned that your loved one may have developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, your situation is likely more common than you realise, and you are certainly not alone. Alcohol consumption can represent a slippery slope for many, at a variety of life stages, but it need not be a challenge we face solo. In fact, there are many excellent resources available to those who need help reclaiming balance when it comes to drinking excessively. As a first step, take time to consider what may be the most constructive way to broach the subject with your loved one. Options include approaching the subject in person with kindness, sharing your concerns with fellow friends or relatives, or pursuing support from healthcare professionals.
Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can offer fantastic camaraderie for those in need of extra oomph in tackling alcohol addiction. Similarly, trained councillors can provide helpful guidance and support – particularly those who specialise in alcohol-related issues among the elderly. Reaching out to a trusted physician, or simply Googling to discover local resources, can illuminate a diversity of options that you may otherwise not have realised were available.
Seeking Support From Qualified Carers
For those who feel that their loved ones would benefit from care and company in the home, daily or live-in care solutions can provide wonderful peace of mind for all parties. Alcohol misuse is one of the many peripheral areas in which a professional carer can offer extra support, as they work to ensure your loved one experiences the best possible quality of life. If you would like to discuss how a care provider from Heritage Independent Living can help, contact us today. We are always ready to help you identify the best possible solution for your unique needs.