Over centuries, even before European settlers arrived, alcohol has been used as a coping mechanism heavily in American culture. The traditions and rituals that come along with the social aspect of alcohol make it pretty hard to avoid.

Had a long week at work? The first thing on many people’s minds is happy hour. Celebrating a milestone birthday or a big wedding? A Champagne toast is pretty much to be expected. Another “non-social” trigger for feeling the need to have a drink can revolve around boredom, loneliness and of course; depression. About 1 in 12 men and 1 in 25 women in the US have a problem with alcohol and the cultural standards that enable abuse certainly aren’t going anywhere.

With elderly patients, there are a few different ways your loved one can find themselves struggling with alcohol. Commonly it can be carried over from a previous dependency, yet now more dangerous with idle time on their hands. Another way also stems from ample time to themselves and goes back to the trigger of boredom and loneliness. Some start drinking late in life only because there isn’t anything else to do.

Caregivers can also be susceptible to alcohol abuse. The stress of putting your loved one before yourself can be very overbearing at times. When it’s time for a caregiver to unwind and enjoy their own free time, enjoying one drink can easily turn into excess. This can add to the potential of experiencing “caregiver burnout”.

The best way to combat bad habits with alcohol for your loved one starts with an open discussion. Try asking questions before being accusatory of any addictive behavior. This begins the conversation from a place of care, not policing. The next step is finding healthy ways to occupy the time that one would spend drinking. Getting your loved one socially active in the elderly community is a great way to start. Check out your local senior centers for activities that would interest them.

As far as caregivers, it’s a bit more on yourself to make some changes if you feel you’re on a bad path with alcohol. Cliché but true, admitting to yourself that you have a problem is the first step. It’s extremely detrimental that you are the best version of yourself while caring for your loved one. Treatment meetings (AA, NA, etc) can be a good way to initially utilize your free time in a healthier environment.

Discover Health is here for caregiving advice surrounding addiction problems, alcohol and beyond. Contact Discover Health for more information on the best practices for caregiving.

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