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According to a study, around a third of men and one-fifth of women between the ages of 65 and 74 are drinking more than the daily recommendation for that age group in the UK. 
In 2017, it was found that 14.7% of men and 7.6% of women aged 65 and over in the UK binged alcohol on their heaviest drinking day of the week .
It is easy to think that excessive drinking is something that only young people do or something associated with a mid-life crisis, but older people can also be victims of alcoholism. There are several reasons for this.
As people get older, they gradually start to lose their closest friends and family members. Parents, siblings, cousins, friends, partners, neighbours – whether it be due to death, illness, or moving away, individuals become increasingly isolated as they grow up.
For a lot of adults, the home is a busy and lively place for most of their life. They have parents, siblings, and then children to keep them company and spend their time with.
As people get older, however, and children grow up and move out to have a family of their own, feelings of loneliness can develop. This is commonly referred to as Empty Nest syndrome.
This loneliness can prompt alcohol use as a numbing agent to distract individuals away from their empty homes and negative emotions.
One of the most painful parts about growing older is losing a spouse or partner. In the later years of life, these loved ones can become the only social contact older individuals have, and so their death can be hugely impactful on wellbeing and worldview.
Pain, heartbreak, and depression are common in this situation, leaving individuals vulnerable to the temptation of alcohol which can be used to numb these horrible feelings.
A fact of life that everyone must deal with is the gradual decline in health as we age. Muscles weaken, bones break, and diseases become more common.
In response to this, individuals can find themselves turning to alcohol for multiple reasons. They might use alcohol as a way to self-medicate for physical discomfort, or they might develop a more carefree attitude and start drinking because they are nearing death.
Drinking alcohol is widely considered to be a fun activity. At all stages of life, friends meet to do it, and the same goes for those in their elderly years.
Due to increasing isolation, older people might try to socialise with new people their age. Events can often involve alcohol, and attending these events so frequently can gradually lead to dependency.
Alcohol has a huge impact on the body, but the consequences of drinking in excess for older people are even greater.
Some of the most dangerous include :
As a result of the consequences outlined above, it is essential to be able to spot alcoholism in older people.
Some of the most common signs include:
Even with the signs in mind, spotting alcoholism can still prove very difficult. What are easier to notice are the risk factors of alcoholism – things that tend to push older people towards excessive alcohol use.
Common risk factors include:
If you identify traits of alcoholism in the behaviour of a grandparent, parent, or older friend, it is important to know how to ensure they get the help that they need. There are multiple options available for starting this journey.
The first thing many might think to do is to try and talk to the individual about their alcohol use. The best approach for this is to be gentle and slow – accusing or blaming them for their behaviour is likely to cause them to reject your attempts to help.
If an individual refuses to accept that they have an addiction, or if approaching them alone seems daunting, an intervention can be held. These bring family and friends together to explain how alcoholism has become a problem and offer support for treatment.
Alcoholism can appear at first like an unbeatable condition, but learning more can help tackle this. Reaching out to a GP or doctor to learn more about the condition and how it can be helped can go a long way in guiding how you handle the situation.
There are a variety of treatment options available for alcoholism in the UK. In order to find out which are most suitable for the situation your older loved one finds themselves in, it can help to research and get in touch with some local alcohol rehab centres.
If you do not have the funds to pay for alcohol rehab, getting in touch with your local council can open the door to applying for funding. These funds are made available for people who otherwise would not be able to afford to get the help they need.
Please contact our dedicated team at Rehab 4 Alcoholism for advice on 0800 111 4108.