Madhav used to follow the mantra that if one is good, then more must be better. And alcohol was no exception.
Around age 60, it caught up with him. Madhav was drinking larger quantities more frequently than when he was younger. As he got older, his occasional social drink turned into an isolated, lonely ritual. It wasn‘t until he almost had a major accident driving intoxicated that he realised he needed help.
Usually regular heavy drinkers don‘t think there is anything wrong with what they are doing. You don‘t often know there is a problem until you have some kind of consequence. For most people, alcohol misuse starts young: They may begin drinking in college and struggle with it thereafter. But for a smaller number of people, problems with alcohol don‘t start until later in life. This is considered late-onset alcoholism. And drinking at 65 looks very different than it does at 25.
What Triggers Late-Onset Alcoholism?
Late-onset people are those who never had a problem, and then all of a sudden something comes up. More women than men, and a lot of them in the educated and affluent people is in this group. The trigger is typically a life change like retirement, kids leaving home, or new physical challenges. Most of them enjoy work and had no plans to retire, but gradually begin to feel isolated and lonely. They struggle with owning their place in the world, and they don‘t want to feel those feelings. And what better way not to feel them than by using alcohol?
Often people also begin misusing alcohol because of a spousal death, divorce, movement to a fixed income, or inability to do normal physical tasks. It‘s very difficult for someone who is independent to begin to realise they have limitations, and sometimes the bottle becomes their best friend.
The Physical Effects of Alcohol
For people 65 and older, it is recommended not to consume more than two drinks a day. What you could consume even 10 years before and be functional will not remain the same. The body will not process alocohol as before. That‘s because, as we age, the body‘s ability to tolerate alcohol is reduced. We have more fat and less water in our systems as we get older. Chemicals are better absorbed, but the kidneys and liver aren‘t as efficient at detoxifying afterward. Because of these bodily changes, the signs of alcohol abuse in older people are unlike those of younger individuals. They can frequently mimic other medical conditions, like stroke, Parkinson‘s disease, or diabetes.
Some of the “symptomsâ€ of excessive drinking at an older age include: sleep problems, isolation, memory loss, incontinence, bruises from unexplained falls, and blacking out.
Is Your Drinking Habit Alcoholism?
Older individuals are often less likely than younger generations to self-identify as abusing substances.They are more likely to say they are getting depressed or are grieving, which can be natural.
For Baby Boomers, alcohol was part of the culture, but alcoholism was not. Parents and peers drank, and cocktail hour was completely en vogue. When people had issues with drinking, they had a “problem,â€â€“ the word alcoholic was taboo. Determining who has a drinking problem, and who doesn‘t, isn‘t easy. Spotting whether you or someone you love is wrestling with alcoholism isn‘t always as clear as a confession. Resources to gauge if someone has an issue with alcohol are abundant. The CAGE test is recommended:
C â€“ Have you tried to cut down or control your drinking?
A â€“ Are others annoyed or angered by your drinking?
G â€“ Do you feel guilty about drinking, or about your behaviour while drinking or what you might be missing because of drinking?
E â€“ Do you find yourself needing an “eye-openerâ€ or drinking earlier than planned?
For people concerned about friends or family who may be drinking too much, subtlety is best for handling the situation. It may go more smoothly if the issue is approached as a medical problem instead of alcoholism.
If they can‘t get their blood sugar under control, you may ask if they will go with you to talk with someone about what‘s going on and whether or not alcohol may be impacting it. Or, ‘I noticed you were staggering, and that isn‘t like you. Can we go to the doctor to see if we can figure out what is wrong?‘
Life can be better than anyone thought it could be at an age when we think it‘s over â€” we have lived the best parts of it. I no longer believe that; I have a vibrant, full lease on life – say people who have learned to combat their dependence on alcohol.