Aging affects how our bodies interact with alcoholic beverages. While our drinking habits might stay the same over the years, our tolerance to alcohol changes. This puts older adults at risk for increased health problems related to the consumption of alcohol.
VANTAGE Behavioral Health client Teresa*, 60, faced lost employment and the change caused her to become depressed. To cope, she began drinking alcohol more frequently. Before Teresa knew it, alcohol was affecting her physical and mental health.
Teresa ended up being admitted to the hospital due to health complications caused by heavy drinking. The experience was eye opening for Teresa. Determined to get back to good health, she went to Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) classes and met with counselors regularly. Now, Teresa is working, healthy, and has a positive perspective on the future.
Teresa found help through VANTAGE Aging’s Behavioral Health Solutions program. Behavioral Health Solutions provides quality mental health services and treatment for alcohol and other drug use disorders to Summit County adults age 50 and older. The services are designed to meet the emotional and physical needs of older adults so that they can remain independent in their homes and communities.
Teresa was working at FirstMerit Bank when Huntington Bank acquired the company. She took early retirement and started looking for a new job. Teresa found that a lot of things had changed after being out of the job search market for nearly two decades. She struggled to find employment in today’s workforce.
Being unemployed was stressful and Teresa eventually became depressed. Teresa’s extra free time and feelings of depression impelled her to drink alcohol as a coping method. She had always considered herself a “social drinker,” but she started consuming more alcohol once she stopped working.
“Before I knew it, I was drinking in the morning, afternoon, and evening,” said Teresa. She started to have a hard time getting out of bed and stopped eating well. She spent a lot of time laying down and watching television.
It was not until Teresa’s sons stepped in that she realized something was not right. After she put off scheduling a doctor’s appointment, her son took her to the emergency room. She spent two days in the ICU due to dehydration, and an additional two weeks in the hospital receiving pints of blood and fluids and undergoing rehabilitation because her body had grown so weak.
Finding Hope and Moving Forward
Once Teresa was released from the hospital, she began receiving behavioral health services from VANTAGE Aging. She attended counseling in a women’s group setting twice a week and completed the IOP program.
Teresa had not realized that she had developed an alcohol use disorder and that her body was reacting negatively to heavy drinking and lack of activity. The Behavioral Health Solutions program helped her understand what was going on in her mind and body from an outside perspective. After digging deep into what was happening, Teresa was able to move forward boldly and live a full, healthy life.
“IOP helped me understand what happened to my body, what was going on in my head, and that I had given up without realizing it,” said Teresa.
Teresa is now exploring new career opportunities and has started working as a telemarketer. She was concerned that the job would stress her out and set her backward, but it has turned out to be a positive experience. She gets along well with her coworkers and there is always music playing in the office.
Contact VANTAGE for help reaching your recovery goals.
Aging and Alcohol
Major life changes such as loss of employment or the death of a loved one can cause some individuals to want to drink heavily to deal with feelings of depression and anxiety. But, heavy drinking can put older adults at risk for falls, car crashes, and increased health problems.
The signs of alcohol use disorders are different in older adults than in younger people. They are often overlooked or mistaken for other conditions related to getting older, such as having trouble with balance.
It is important to know the signs of alcohol use disorders and speak up when you have concerns. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Dependence, signs of alcohol use disorders in seniors include:
- Solitary or secretive drinking.
- A ritual of drinking before, with, or after dinner.
- A loss of interest in hobbies or pleasurable activities.
- Drinking in spite of warning labels on prescription drugs.
- Immediate and frequent use of tranquilizers.
- Slurred speech, empty liquor and beer bottles, smell of alcohol on breath, change in personal appearance.
- Chronic and unsupported health complaints.
- Hostility or depression.
- Memory loss and confusion.
Alcohol and drug use disorders among older adults are one of the fastest growing health problems facing the country. In the US, there are 2.5 million older adults with an alcohol or drug use disorder.
Raising awareness, understanding and response levels to alcohol use disorders can help more older adults get the treatment they need to live independently in their homes and communities.
For Teresa, recovery has been a challenging and rewarding journey. She advises others to put in the effort to reach a quality level of wellness.
“It’s a good program and helps a lot of people when they stick with it,” said Teresa Sometimes, it’s hard getting up and going, but this is your job for yourself. You have to get up and go to class.”
Call 330-253-4597 or fill out this Contact Form to learn more about VANTAGE Behavioral Health Solutions.
*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.
*Name has been changed for privacy