Alcohol use is on the rise among older adults. And it’s not easy to spot. Many of the signs resemble common problems of aging. And who wants to think that when Mom stumbles, for instance, it might be because of drink?! There’s a lot of shame associated with drinking, so older adults—especially older women—often hide the activity.
About two-thirds of older adults with drinking problems have been drinking much of their lives. They’ve been “getting away with it.” Or they may have stopped in middle age, and then relapse in late life.
The remaining one-third of older adult drinkers with a problem are people who may even have been teetotalers in their youth. Keep your eyes open! Even if Dad never seemed interested before, alcohol could be his “comfort” now. Loss makes elders particularly susceptible, for instance after the death of a spouse or a move to a new living situation. Pain or failing health are other common triggers. Even something as happy as retirement can pull the rug out, removing friendships, identity, and daily routines. With so much idle time, it’s easy to fall into a drinking habit without realizing it. When one drink becomes two or three, it can lead to dependence.
Loss of meaning and purpose are huge culprits
Loneliness and isolation lead to depression and anxiety. Without social contacts, it’s just too easy to “self-medicate” the emotional pain with alcohol. Older women generally, and men who have lost their partners, are especially vulnerable to drinking in later life.
Signs of a drinking problem
- Unexplained falls and bruises
- Moodiness, irritability
- Poor sleep
- Weight loss
- Changes in appearance and hygiene
- Increased secrecy, hiding bottles
In a follow-up blog post, we will describe constructive ways to raise this sensitive subject with your loved one, as well as things you can do to help him or her.
Are you worried?
Maybe this is a new issue. Or maybe your relative has been a lifelong drinker at no small expense to the family. As the Northern Virginia experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Care Management Services know how delicate this issue can be. And sometimes even painful. Give us a call at 703-329-0900 to talk about the options. You don’t have to face this alone.
If remaining independent is a goal for your older relative, bringing some balance to his or her life is essential—balance exercise, that is.
All it takes is short but consistent focus for Mom or Dad to significantly reduce the chance of a fall. In one study, two 15-minute sessions of balance exercises over a six-month period was enough to make a difference. That’s only 30 minutes a week. Depending on your situation, this may even be something you can do together.
- Routines are simple. Mom won’t be daunted by the balance activities recommended by the National Institute on Aging. Standing on one foot and heal-to-toe walking are easy to do at home.
- No muss, no fuss. No special clothing, no special gear, and not even much floor space is needed for balance activities. Dad can even hold on to a table or chair until he feels more stable.
It turns out the most effective exercise for preventing falls is tai chi. This gentle activity has been practiced in China for centuries. Tai-chi involves slow, graceful movements combined with controlled breathing and awareness of the body’s position.
Research has shown that people who practiced an hour of tai-chi three times a week for three months experienced a 43% reduction in falls. They also had a 50% reduction in injuries from a fall.
Tai chi is best done with a teacher and in a class. But if that’s not an option, there are DVDs that teach tai chi. The local library may even have some to lend out.
Get the doctor’s okay first
There are many reasons a person might have poor balance. Just to be safe, ask for a fall risk assessment before starting an exercise program. You want to be sure your loved one has all the bases covered.
Does your Mom or Dad need help with balance?
The exercises aren’t difficult, but they do take time. And it’s much easier to stick with them if they can be done with others. Let us help you explore the options. As the Northern Virginia experts in aging well, we at Senior Care Management Services are quite adept at helping older adults become more physical and focus more positively on their bodies. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.
Has your mother fallen recently? She’s not alone! One out of four adults 65 and over experiences a fall each year. That makes falls the leading cause of injury for older adults.
Falls are serious business
A few statistics: In the U.S. an older adult dies once every 20 minutes as a result of a fall. Disabilities from a fall include injuries that can be life changing: a traumatic brain injury or broken hip. Especially for seniors, falls pose a danger to an independent lifestyle. They often usher in a permanent need for daily assistance.
Who is at risk for falling?
Has Mom or Dad fallen twice in the past year? Have you noticed balance or gait problems? Has there recently been a severe fall? These are signs of “high risk.” Other signs involve poor vision, or taking medicines that list dizziness as a side effect.
A fall risk assessment
To be safe, ask your relative’s doctor to do a fall risk assessment. This includes a review of
- underlying medical conditions. Many chronic diseases affect and the ability to get around.
- the home environment. The doctor can write an order for an occupational therapist or other trained professional to do a home assessment. They can identify simple ways to remove hazards and make the home safer.
- medication use. Some types of drugs, or daily use of four or more prescription drugs, increase the risk for falling.
A recent review of numerous studies show that some strategies are better than others. The most effective measures for preventing a fall include:
- Exercise, especially activities that promote balance.
- Getting regular eye exams and following through with corrective procedures.
- Removing hazards around the house.
- Wearing sturdy shoes and slippers. A firm sole is better than a soft cushy one because it’s easier to feel the ground below.
Are you worried about a fall?
As the Northern Virginia expert in family caregiving, we at Senior Care Management Services understand the difficulty of your situation. You can’t be too forceful about changes. And at the same time, the consequences can be pretty serious. Put our experience to work for you. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.