According to Erik Erikson’s theory of development, an older person is faced with achieving ego integrity of despair. People who attain ego integrity enjoy a sense of peace and pride in their contribution and accomplishments. Others fail to cope satisfactorily and retirement, widowhood, and the accumulation of losses can lead to loneliness and despair. Sometimes, alcohol and drug use are an older person’s means of coping.
We all know that the aging population over 65 is the fastest growing age group in the nation. People do not realize the extent of substance abuse by this population because they are more likely to drink and use drugs at home rather than in the public. Interestingly, alcohol related consequences of heavy drinking are often mistaken by health care professionals and family members as medical or psychiatric conditions.
It is estimated that 4.8 million adults over the age of 50 are using illicit drugs. These numbers are expected to grow as the population ages and are going to be more commonly seen in the elderly population. Our families, communities, and health care providers will need to be prepared to screen for substance abuse effectively and connect older adults with service options to help with substance use.
Lifestyle and environment play a huge part in your health as you age and substance abuse at any age is associated with health problems. With prescription drug misuse estimated to affect almost 4% of older adults in the 50-59 age range, this is a large reason why that population is sicker than the prior generation.
There are two types of people who have substance abuse issues during older age. There are people who started drinking or abusing at a younger age and have continued into old age and there are late-onset people who start drinking or abusing during old age. For both groups, depression, loneliness, and lack of social support were the most frequent reasons for substance abuse. Often times, chronic abusers are reluctant to accept community-based and health care services, only exacerbating their condition.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, loneliness, and lack of social support call Western Illinois Home Health Care at 800-228-5993. We are a full service provider in the area offering skilled home health care and support services in the home.
Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager at Western Illinois Home Health Care