Alcoholism in the elderly is a severe problem that can destroy a person's health and relationships. Understanding how to help an alcoholic grandparent and learning how to convince a grandparent to get treatment can make a huge difference in how the entire family interacts and in the health of the grandparent.
Importance of helping an alcoholic grandparent
If your grandparent drinks too much, he or she may be severely endangering his or her health. Alcohol has a stronger effect on the organs of most elderly people than it does on younger drinkers. This can result in an increased risk of liver disease, heart problems, stroke, and organ failure. Older drinkers may be more likely to fall down or injure themselves accidentally when drunk. When an elderly person does fall down, he or she may be more likely to break a bone. Another potential problem is that grandparents are often on medication for various illnesses, and these medicines can interact with alcohol in negative ways.
How to recognize alcoholism or alcohol abuse in a grandparent
Sometimes, something in the back of your mind makes you ask the question "Do my grandparents drink too much?" or "Are my grandparents alcoholics?" If you have to ask this question, it could be a sign of a problem. In general, alcohol use becomes a problem when drinking affects a person's daily life, including relationships with family members. If your grandparent hides his or her drinking, this is a sign of a problem.
Other symptoms include being unable to control alcohol use, having blackouts, and becoming irritable when kept from drinking. Violence and abusive behavior while drunk are also signs that a grandparent may need help. However, in some cases, the signs are much subtler. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, people over 65 should not have more than one drink a day, so more than this could constitute a problem, even if the grandparent acts calm and relaxed while drinking.
How to Help Others Struggling with Alcohol
How to stage an intervention with an alcoholic grandparent
If your grandparent is an alcoholic or abuses alcohol, it could be necessary to stage an intervention to force him or her to recognize the problem. An intervention involves confronting your grandparent and trying to get him or her to seek treatment, but it is important not to start an intervention in a way that will make your grandparent defensive. If you decide that it is time to stage an intervention and try to get your grandparent to face his or her addiction, you should first discuss your intentions with the rest of the family. The more people you can get on your side, the more likely it is that your grandparent might recognize the problem. Before approaching your grandparent, all of the family members who want to help should talk to a counselor trained in alcohol abuse and interventions. Following the counselors advice, let the grandparent know that the family has been seeing a counselor about the grandparent's alcohol use. This can help prevent the intervention from being a complete surprise. Be aware that it can sometimes be difficult to convince a grandparent of the need for help, and it may take a while before the grandparent is willing to seek treatment.
How to help an alcoholic grandparent get treatment
Once your grandparent recognizes the need for treatment, it is important to have suggestions in mind as to what type of treatment might be useful. In some cases, this may mean checking your grandparent into an inpatient facility where he or she can detoxify from alcohol and learn how to stop drinking. In other cases, attending treatment on an outpatient basis may be possible. Treatment often involves joining a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. It can help the recovering grandparent if you and other family members join Al-Anon, the support group for families of alcoholics. If you would like to learn more about how to help an alcoholic grandparent get treatment or how to stage an intervention to get your grandparent to recognize the need for treatment, call us.