There is no type of “easy” intervention. There is not type of addict who is easy or uncomplicated to intervene on. No matter who your family member or loved one is who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, their condition in life, their addiction, how much they abuse and how often and how long they have been abusing it, their age, sex, status, employment (or lack thereof), marital situation, familial situation, financial situation, legal situation, etc. all of these factors have an influence to one degree or another on how the intervention will go and what one has to prepare for. Performing an intervention on an elderly adult or a senior citizen who is addicted to drugs and alcohol in and of itself will have its own set of unique circumstances.
Addiction in Senior Citizens and Elderly Citizens
Addiction and substance abuse amongst elderly adults is quite prevalent. For some statistics on it:
• Findings from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) show that no less than twenty to thirty percent of Americans of the age of 75 to 85 have experienced drinking problems.
• According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA), four percent of adults ages 60 to 64 report using an illicit drug, and no less that forty percent have admitted to using their prescription medications in an abusive way or self-medicating with them.
• No less than seventeen percent of people in the United States over 65 years old have abused heroin or cocaine, according to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
• Approximately fifty percent of adults over 65 are given some type of prescription medicine, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. These are often abused.
• According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) men and women aged 65 or older should consume no more than 1 drink daily and a maximum of 2 drinks on any occasion, yet many of them consume far more than that.
• Recently the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that no less than six percent of people 50 and older had used illicit drugs in the year prior, and many more people in this age group drink alcohol to excess or abuse their prescription medications too.
In today’s day and age when all of the news is all about addiction amongst young adults, other addiction problems in the country are often pushed aside. But the truth is that elderly people can also fall under the curse that is addiction. They are not immune to it simply because of the age gap between young and old adults.
These issues of substance abuse can be of serious and very real consequence for older people, contributing to falls, diseases, memory loss, and even death. The families of people like this who are old and who are suffering with addiction too might be desperate to do something to change the situation, and thankfully such a change is possible and is reachable. Holding an intervention with an older person to attempt to convince him or her to give up the substance abuse and go to a rehab center can be remarkably helpful, but only if it’s planned and executed expertly and with care.
Tips to Staging a Successful Intervention with an Elderly Adult
Most interventions have lots of people in them, all who are connected in some way to the addict.
These intervention teams can grow to 15 people or more, and everyone in the room has a stake in the addiction and the addict’s eventual healing process, be it because they are a friend, a family member, a loved one, a co-worker, or even a neighbor. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration though, this approach can be tricky and not so great for older people. Older people tend to get overwhelmed more easily, so it’s best to stick to a smaller group of very close family members and loved ones.
Older adults in particular really resent and go against the idea of being an “addict” or an “alcoholic,” so to speak. One should never use these terms around them. Older adults tend to have much more anger towards and disagreement with addiction than younger adults do, so tread lightly on this subject with them.
The issue of shame and embarrassment can be acute in older people with addictions too; they feel like they need to uphold a certain level of integrity and morality that younger adults aren’t required to display on such a regular and consistent basis as older adults are. Be supportive if this is the case, and let them now that it is perfectly alright for them, as they are working to help them and not to play the blame game with them.
The keynote of intervening with a senior citizen who is also addicted to drugs and alcohol is to be gentle, to tread lightly and to avoid confrontational and key words that might disturb then overly much. Proceed slowly and calmly, impressing the existence of love and compassion and totally removing any kind of blame or accusation from the environment. If this is done with care and concentration, then the odds are that one will have a very successful intervention and the elderly adult will be off to treatment in no time at all.