While there is nothing inherently wrong with partaking with one or even two drinks on occasion during your senior years, there is definitely an element of moderation required. Drinking sensibly is an entirely different practice when compared to seemingly casual drinking that can spiral out of control.
One of the reasons that opponents are against allowing alcohol use in assisted living facilities might surprise you, it is the potential for late-onset alcoholism in seniors.
Two Different Considerations
On one side of the argument, we find those who suggest that there should be no reason why the provisioning of alcoholic beverages in a controlled environment should be disallowed. That is, provided it is possible to regulate the seniors’ consumption of alcohol. Others argue that there is an association between alcohol consumption, increased health risks, and the possibility of abuse.
Some fear it is all too easy for seniors to fall into the trap of: “Why can’t I drink what I want when I want during my Golden Years?” According to a Research on Aging study, about 70 percent of the elderly residing in assisted living facilities consumes alcohol, with nearly 33 percent of those who do drink doing so each day.
Experts are in agreement that it is time to examine the issue in greater depth to ascertain whether those in control of assisted and elderly living facilities should monitor and control elderly alcohol consumption or not.
The Question of Alcohol Use in Living Facilities
Issues with alcohol consumption in the elderly community are only the beginning of the problems that can arise. Mixing drinking with other health related issues such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other diseases the elderly face can cause considerable difficulties. Drinking can have a powerful, negative impact on senior health and the impact can happen quickly.
Policies regarding alcohol consumption and responsible drinking must bring into consideration the following:
- Reduced tolerance – As we age, our tolerance for alcohol is significantly less than when we were younger. Many studies, including one conducted at Baylor University this past year, revealed the impairment occurring in the elderly is greater than younger people, and such issues can lead to the onset of alcoholism in the later stages in one’s life. Our metabolic processes are not as efficient as it is when we are younger. This could lead to more issues with memory loss and lack of bodily control. To that end, the increased likelihood of falls is heightened when the elderly drink.
- Making existing conditions worse – As per information made available by the West Virginia University School of Public Health, alcohol can contribute to the exacerbation of existing medical conditions. Conditions such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, and diabetes are all worsened with uncontrolled drinking. What’s more, the elderly face potential drug interactions between necessary medications and the alcohol they consume.
- Increased risk of alcoholism –The elderly have greater risk factors when it comes to alcoholism. As we age, the process sometimes leads to psychological and emotional issues related to stress, physical pain, and feelings of loneliness. Seniors face unique stressors the young do not yet face; everything from moving from the home they have always known, to dealing with the death of loved ones can prove tremendously stressful. If the elderly struggle with depression and isolation, then issues with alcohol and drinking to excess have a chance to develop.
What remains clear is that some difficult choices have to be made in relates to allowing seniors to consume alcohol in assisted living facilities. While it is certainly true that one wants to always protect the rights of the elderly and their ability to make personal choices, such allowances should not be at the cost of the seniors’ health. This remains a very hard question to answer.