Magazine article USA TODAY

Helping Hands for Elderly Alcoholics

Magazine article USA TODAY

Helping Hands for Elderly Alcoholics

Article excerpt

Society's lack of understanding about alcoholism in general and its effect on the elderly in particular makes it easy to ignore drinking in that age group, maintains Peg Krach, an assistant professor in Purdue University's School of Nursing, who studies problems associated with old age. "It's a serious problem that's being ignored because often there's the attitude of 'I'm not going to confront Grandpa about it.'" Adding to the dilemma is that many of the symptoms of alcoholism are those typically attributed to old age, such as insomnia, poor concentration, and depression.

While warning signs that a senior citizen is an alcoholic are more subtle than in a younger drinker, you can learn to spot them, she points out. Some signs include increased indications of self-neglect or letting the house or apartment become cluttered and dirty; confusion over time of day, surroundings, etc.; repeated falls and accidents; consuming small amounts of alcohol on a daily basis; and drinking at home alone, rather than at bars or in other social settings.

If you suspect an older family member has a drinking problem, gently confront the person without judgment and choose your words carefully, Krach suggests. …

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