If growing older weren’t hard enough already, aging can often entail a loss of physical, psychological and/or environmental mobility, which in turn raises the risks of a drinking problem. Consider, for example, that nearly 50 percent of nursing home residents have alcohol-related issues, according to statistics from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse
This link between immobility and substance abuse among the elderly can be easy to miss— both for those who are most vulnerable (seniors) and for their loved ones. Exactly how are immobility and alcohol abuse connected in older adults, and how do you know if you or a loved one is affected? Below are answers to these questions, along with some tips for coping with aging-related immobility in healthy ways.
Immobility is very common in old age because of physical, psychological and environmental factors that, in addition to restricting older adults’ freedom to get around, make them more susceptible to alcohol abuse and addiction:
These many causes of immobility in old age naturally can be accompanied by difficult emotions, such as feelings of anger and sadness over a loss of independence and embarrassment about having to be dependent on others to get around. And these often negative and uncomfortable emotions may trigger drug or alcohol abuse, research has suggested.
If a senior’s drinking typically occurs as an effort to dull or soothe difficult or painful emotions related to a loss of mobility, they may therefore be suffering from alcohol abuse. Other warning signs to watch for in discerning a potential alcohol problem include:
We have now established that coping with aging-related immobility can be emotionally hard, and that it is not uncommon for a drinking problem to develop in the absence of healthy coping tools. One of the best ways to protect one’s health in the golden years, then, is to surround oneself with a healthy emotional support network. Research at UC Berkeley has confirmed this observation. Specifically, seniors who live in neighborhoods with high levels of “social capital” where “there is more trust and more helpful neighbors,” reportedly enjoy greater mobility—and, by implication, lower rates of alcohol abuse.
What’s the takeaway for good health? That in the older years, relationships of mutual trust and support are arguably more important than ever, and that surrounding oneself with a robust support network is key. In other words, the more you or a loved one struggling with immobility can make use of opportunities to socialize, the healthier you’ll be.
About the Author
Anna Ciulla is the Vice President of Clinical and Medical Services at Beach House Center for Recovery, where she is responsible for designing, implementing and supervising the delivery of the latest evidence-based therapies for treating substance use disorders. Anna has a passion for helping clients with substance use and co-occurring disorders achieve successful long-term recovery.
Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse Link Between Immobility and Substance Abuse
As a co-owner of Senior.com, Kimberly Johnson is passionate about providing Seniors with the resources and products to live well. Kimberly is a seasoned caregiver to her family and breast cancer survivor. Her father battled ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, for 13 months before passing. Today Kimberly lives in Southern California near her 102 year old grandmother, widowed mother, a mentally disabled sister and second sister who is also a breast cancer survivor. She is happily married to her husband of 22 years and they have 3 children.View All Articles