According to UCLA professor Dr. Alison Moore, 10-15% of people don't start to drink heavily until they are older. Because of this, about three-quarters of a million emergency room discharges among the elderly were reported in 2012. Also, 50% of seniors living inside nursing homes have alcohol-related problems.
Alcohol abuse among the elderly is a growing problem. However, it may be challenging to identify if you or your loved one has an alcohol-abuse problem. Often, people are surprised when they learn that a person is considered an alcoholic. Let's take a closer look at some symptoms of addiction. Then we'll discuss why seniors quickly get drunk and lastly, what can be done to cut down on drinking alcohol.
Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
There is no single rule to define someone who has alcohol-related problems, and different people can act differently. For example, some people could be high but still able to function normally making them less easy to detect. On the other hand, some people destroy their social and work life because of substance abuse.
There are different reasons why older adults may turn to alcohol. Some are grieving the loss of a loyal marriage mate and use alcohol to drown the loneliness while others have fallen into the wrong crowd and ended up abusing alcohol. Whatever the reason for the abuse, some symptoms can help identify an addiction, including:
· sudden weight fluctuations
· isolation from family and friends
· bloodshot eye
· short term memory loss
· rationalizing drinking by making excuses why you drink
These symptoms can be seen no matter the age.
Sensitivity to alcohol among seniors
Older adults are likely to experience the effects of alcohol quicker than when they were younger. This fact is one of the reasons they may unknowingly fall into the trap of drinking too much. The lowered tolerance of alcohol among older adults can be attributed to several physiological reasons:
Low amounts of water in the body
In younger adults, water composes up to 70% of our body's volume. This amount decreases as we age by about 15%. This change is one of the reasons why seniors are more prone to dehydration.
Along with low water levels, kidney function decreases as we age. Combining the two factors and adding alcohol creates a dangerous combination. Alcohol is known to contribute to dehydration, which sets the stage for a deadly combo.
Less muscle volume
Muscle mass plays an essential role in the absorption of alcohol. When alcohol passes through your body, it is first absorbed through the stomach and then distributed through the bloodstream where it is absorbed by muscle faster than by fat. When you age and loss of muscle and increase fat. The result of this loss of tissue, you feel the effect of alcohol for a more extended period. All these reasons result in a higher blood concentration.
Alcohol takes longer to absorb
As you age, your body takes longer to digest alcohol, which means your vital organs can severely be damaged. If you are taking any medications, alcohol can also prevent them from working correctly.
Tips for Cutting Down On Drinking Alcohol
Whether you have visible problems with alcohol or want to cut down for health reasons, there are some tips you can incorporate right away. Even if you are a casual or social drinker, you may at times find yourself drinking too much. Here are some tips from those who have successfully cut down drinking.
1. Find your reason
Before you can change your behavioural pattern, you first need to understand them. Ask yourself these questions: why do I drink alcohol? What role does alcohol play in your life? How important do you view alcohol?
Once you have answered these questions, you will have an idea about what you need to do to change. When you figure out the role alcohol is playing in your life- whether it is helping you relax or socialize, you can start looking for something else to fill that need.
2. Be ready for a change in routine
Cutting down on alcohol means more than giving up a few drinks, It involves giving up your habits that may include going to bars, hanging out with friends, and so on. If you are to succeed in quitting drinking alcohol, you need to be ready to cut some friendships and come up with a healthier routine.
Look out for activities that you think you might enjoy to fill in the times when you used to drink. You can consider taking on a hobby, going on a date, making new friends, enrolling in a class- anything to spend your time productively.
3. Make gradual process
Like with any other habit, going cold turkey rarely works when you are trying to cut down on alcohol. Instead, set a goal of drinking fewer drinks each week and continue lowering that amount until you are satisfied with your progress. Merely going for smaller bottles may make all the difference- instead of pints, go for bottle beer, and drink out of smaller wine glasses and so on.
4. Muster the courage to say "No."
During your process of cutting down alcohol, there are times you will find yourself in situations where someone will offer you a drink. If this person used to be your drinking buddy, the pressure may be more intense but learn how to say "No" and mean it.
To make these situations more comfortable to deal with, it is wise to let family and friends know about your plans to cut down alcohol and express your need for support. This way, they will be less likely to pressure you into drinking and may even come to your rescue when others try to coerce you.
5. Seek professional Help
If you find that cutting down is harder than you imagined, perhaps it is time to seek professional help. Failure to cut down on your own may be an indicator or a more severe and even life-threatening problem.
There are different options you face when seeking professional help. Some prefer enrolling in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, while others find that seeing a therapist for one-on-one advice is more effective. You may need to try different options before deciding which approach works for you.
Benefits of Cutting Down Your Alcohol Intake
Once you slowly start to make progress regarding the amount of alcohol you are drinking, you will notice some attractive benefits, including:
· More in-depth sleep- alcohol may seem like a sleeping pill, but it negatively affects your sleep. Drinking too much may mean spending less time in deep sleep and waking up earlier than usual. Cutting back alcohol will mean better sleep, which in turn means better mood and concentration.
· Increased energy levels-drinking too much often leaves you feeling sluggish, tired, and sick. Alcohol interferes with your immune system and makes it more difficult to fight disease. The less you drink, the more energy you will have to do the things you love.
· Slimmer waistline- beer bellies are one of the negative results of drinking too much alcohol because alcoholic drinks are very high in calories. Cutting down even just one pint a week will mean 1,500 calories less. In no time, you might be able to fit into your favorite jeans again.
· Better Digestion- alcohol irritates the stomach and causes problems, including indigestion and diarrhea. Also, the increased amounts of alcohol in your blood may mean inflammation of your stomach lining or gastritis. Cut down your drink, and you'll have a happier stomach.
· Brighter skin- because alcohol dehydrates, your skin will have a dark, grey appearance the more you drink. You may also notice dark bags and circles around your eyes as a result of sleep deprivation. Lowering your alcohol intake will give your skin a new glow that will be noticeable in a few days.
Improved concentration- alcohol makes your brain work slower, which can affect your work and daily activities. Cutting back will give you back that smarter, witty mind you always had. On top of that, better cognitive skills may mean fewer stress levels.
In moderation, alcohol can be useful for your body. Sadly, many older adults find themselves becoming more and more dependent on alIcoholic beverages. If this is true in your case, do not lose hope. Understand that your body is not able to absorb alcohol as it used to and you become more sensitive with age. Figure out the reasons for your overdrinking and take decisive steps to replace these with other activities.
Millions of people around the world have successfully cut down their alcohol intake, and so can you! With a little determination, fixed goals in mind and an ounce of courage, you can start reaping the benefits of lower alcohol levels. Ask professional help and get a support group to cheer you on to success.
Watch your body become more energetic, better rested, smarter, and much more with your decision to cut back on alcohol.