Surviving Addiction-Audrey's Story
Colleran, Carol, Jay, Debra, Aging Today
"I'm not going to take away one of dad's last pleasures in life." Many people, when speaking of an aging parent's use of alcohol and medications, commonly mistake addiction for pleasure. For example, people may say, "There really isn't much for him to enjoy anymore. Who does it hurt?" Addiction, however isn't one of life's last pleasures-it is a thief that robs older people of the most important years in their lives.
Once, a 70-year-old widow named Audrey came to us. Her health was failing fast, she was unable to care for herself and she suffered from deep depression. She arrived at the Hanley-Hazelden Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., wheelchair bound. She was covered with large black bruises and bums from her kitchen stove. Audrey no longer had an appetite, so she ate little and was emaciated. One night she passed out in her driveway and scraped her face. The next morning, her neighbor found her face down on the pavement in her nightgown.
Audrey couldn't be trusted with the grandchildren anymore, so family visits were fewer and farther between. She rarely showered and spent most days sitting in a chair alternating between drinking, sleeping and watching television. She stopped calling friends, and social invitations had long since ceased.
Audrey obtained prescriptions from different doctors for Valium, a tranquilizer, and Placydil, a sleep inducer. Both medications, which are addictive and have more adverse side effects in patients over age 60, should only be used for short periods of time. …