It’s no secret that our elders face challenges later in life. Retirement, loss of family and friends, loneliness and financial concerns are just some of the life changes that cause stress and anxiety. When you add the pandemic to this mix, it is no wonder substance abuse in people over 50 has been termed, the ‘invisible epidemic.”
Here at Springpoint at Home, we take this problem seriously. Our Aging Life Care Advisor™ / Care Manager team does not assume warning signs like slurred speech, memory loss or confusion, anxiety or depression and loss of interest in things they once enjoyed, are a normal sign of aging. Our team does a comprehensive screening for medical, mental health and substance use along with using harm reduction techniques.
Harm reduction is a proactive, evidence-based comprehensive approach to address alcohol and other substance abuse through prevention, treatment and recovery. It emphasizes the need for humility and compassion toward people with substance abuse problems of alcohol and drugs.
Why is harm reduction so important now to families and professionals? CDC provisional data shows that there were greater than 100,000 overdose deaths from May 2020 to April 2021. That is a 29% increase compared to the same time the year before. Certainly, the pandemic has much to do with this increase.
Interestingly, as baby boomers age, their opinion about alcohol, marijuana and other drugs are influenced by their formative years, so use of alcohol or drugs may seem inconsequential. And abuse differs by gender. Men 50 and up are more likely to abuse alcohol while women 50 and up are more likely to abuse prescription drugs. The abuse risk rises in later years if you live alone, lost a spouse, are disabled or have long-lasting chronic pain. All life conditions that many of our elders’ face.
A couple of drinks may seem harmless to family, especially if afternoon cocktails was a ritual. Many families believe, if it makes them happy in their later years, where is the harm? But as we age, our body not only reacts differently to alcohol, but it interacts with many drugs and can make diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and depression worse.
According to AARP and the National Institute of Health, elders, especially women, cannot metabolize more than one drink regardless of what medication they are taking and no more than one drink is optimal for brain health. This is certainly new information which must be looked at carefully.
The increase of synthetic opioids, like pain medicine, which are highly potent, also contribute to the significant substance abuse problems. For our elders, drugs stay in your body longer and can have stronger side effects. If the Primary Care Physician does not have a list of over-the-counter medications along with prescriptions, there may be an interaction between the two. And let’s be honest, people over 65 take more prescription drugs than others.
If you notice an increase in feelings of isolation, anxiety and/or an increase in depression in your elder, reach out to our team. Our Aging Life Care Advisor™ / Care Manager team will prioritize talking about mental health and observing behaviors. We will create a care plan which includes promoting healing by connecting your elder to treatment and recovery support services. It is important to our team that we treat clients with respect and don’t assume that anxiety, depression or loss of interest in things they once enjoyed, are a normal sign of aging. We work uncover the source of these feelings so that substance abuse does not become a problem.
For more information about Springpoint at Home and its services, please call: 844-724-1777.