Aging and Alcohol–2: Random Thoughts

IMG_0818A bottle of alcohol may feel/seem like their best friend for a number of living-alone, lonesome older people.  One “little drink” doesn’t suffice, as it did for 1o0-year-old Mrs. Miller (last post), who obviously aged well.

I think about someone I knew professionally, probably in his late 60’s. How to help him was a dilemma and a challenge. On one occasion when I was at work, I received a phone call from the police station in a neighboring village. He was there, charged with DUI. Could I come and pick him up?

Because of my counseling position at an outstanding high school, I assumed he thought I’d add some respectability to the situation. In any event, my principal excused me and I “rescued” him from the police station. He was embarrassed. I chose to be a good counselor and just listen and respond to whatever he wanted to talk about which, as I recall, was that he just “swerved over a double line.”

I’ve forgotten whether he had to pay a fine. He definitely was required to attend a certain number of AA meetings and I believe special group meetings with other DWI and/or DUI offenders for around 3 months before he could drive again. The outcome for him: he continued to drive, was never arrested again, and continued to drink–every few months a binge, during which he’d sometimes phone me with slurred, hard-to-understand words.

If AA couldn’t make a difference, I knew I couldn’t. I haven’t the training. Loneliness was part of his problem. I was certain. But he was estranged from all family so there had to be other “stuff” that only a skilled psychiatrist could unearth; and he chose not to go that route. (Possibly because he was very smart, he rationalized he’d need a therapist much smarter than he.)  And while I truly cared, I knew there was only so much I could do for him.

I could listen objectively, respectfully make suggestions–usually begun with “You probably know this but…” or “I know you’ve already thought of this but to my way of thinking…” and simply try to be a friend. Sometimes that involved bringing him food because when he went on a binge, he not only didn’t eat, but his fresh food would spoil; and he was in no condition to go to the store for staples like bread and milk. Once (that I know of) he was hospitalized.

That’s when I began wondering:  At this stage of his life–
–he’d been hospitalized due to alcoholism, could no doctors help him?
–was the bottle his best friend?
–if he was staying out of trouble and hurt no one but himself is that a bad thing?
–do we make him more miserable by taking away something he want/craves?
–do we simply pray if he continues excessive drinking, no one else will be hurt?
–etc. etc.

Of one thing I’m certain, it’s sad…very sad.

With healthcare costs skyrocketing, government plans to cut those costs, and the expense to society of an aging population’s alcohol-related problems, there must be solutions to helping these elders. This isn’t rocket science–or is it?

Selected sites relating to this post:
http://www.bettyfordcenter.org/treatment/doctors-office/can-loneliness-be-a-cause-of-alcoholism.php
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-nowinski-phd/alcohol-abuse_b_1392596.html Excellent article.
http://nihseniorhealth.gov/alcoholuse/alcoholandaging/01.html     http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/the-aging-drinker/
There are 62 comments on “Aging Drinker” Read some in the middle.

http://www.eldercarelink.com/Assisted-Living/loneliness-can-cause-some-elders-to-turn-to-alcohol.htm.

Help! Aging Parents was just nominated again for the “Best Senior Living Blogs by Individuals” category, “Best of the Web” 2013.  It was 1st runner-up in 2012.  I appreciated your votes last year, and would very much appreciate them again this year by clicking http://www.seniorhomes.com/d/help-aging-parents/2013-best-senior-living-awards/ if you’re on Facebook or Google+. Deadline 2/4/13. Thanks so much!

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