Alcohol and the Aging

There is an alarming trend of binge drinking amongst the older population. Excessive drinking can contribute to strokes, high blood pressure, liver disease, certain cancers, immune system disorders, osteoporosis, brain damage and an increase in falls.

Feeling lonely, depressed and bored are the most common reasons seniors admit to drinking.  Others turn to alcohol in hopes of relieving the pain associated with arthritis and other chronic diseases.  Whatever the reason many seniors drink excessively, we feel compelled to highlight the dangers.

Combining pharmaceuticals with alcohol can make the side effects of drugs more pronounced. Add memory impairment to the mix and someone might not remember if they had their nightly cocktail and decide to pour another one and might miss a critical medication.

An older body metabolizes alcohol more slowly which means alcohol stays in the body longer than when we were young.  That could mean bad news for the many seniors that get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Hearthstone respects the rights of residents and if it makes some of them feel more at home to have a nightcap in their apartment, we can’t stop them.  But, we can educate our residents and the family members who provide the alcohol and let them know they could be putting themselves or their loved ones lives at risk. We also know some people will drink despite knowing the possible implications, but feel it is a best practice to advise your physician and pharmacists about alcohol usage. The doctor might suggest he/she write a prescription for a certain amount of alcohol a day and ask that the medications assistant administer this to their patient.

Here are some examples of drug interactions with alcohol:

  • Taking aspirin or arthritis medications and drinking alcohol can increase the risk of bleeding in the stomach.
  • Taking acetaminophen for pain and drinking alcohol can increase the chances of liver damage.
  • Cold and allergy meds with antihistamines combined with alcohol can make people feel even more drowsy.
  • Drinking and sleeping pills can cause difficulty in breathing, rapid heartbeat and memory issues.
  • Alcohol use with some anxiety medications/antidepressants can be deadly.

Check out the following link to the National Institute on Aging find out and more.

www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/older-adults