What to Do When You Catch Your Aging Parent Abusing Substances

You are all grown up and out of the house, but you can tell that something is wrong with your mom or dad. Your mom isn’t as active in her social groups as she once was, or your dad seems out of it whenever he talks on the phone. You may initially suspect that the years are catching up with your aging parents, but what you may be seeing is instead disguised signs of elder substance abuse.

Alcoholism and drug addiction among adults 60 years and up are some of the fastest growing health problems in the country. Yet, the epidemic remains largely underestimated, underdiagnosed, and undertreated because loved ones and physicians jump immediately to mental disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s before suspecting substance abuse. Moreover, in rare cases when the addiction is discovered, it is allowed to persist due to pity and fear.

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If you have any suspicion that your older parent is abusing substances, it is crucial that you act swiftly and harshly to stop the addiction in its tracks. You have precious little time to spend with your parents, and you want to make their last years as enjoyable as possible for all of you.

Find Appropriate Treatment

The least loving way to deal with your parent’s substance abuse is to ignore it or otherwise allow it to persist unattended. Rehabilitation facilities exist in every state and virtually every city, and they are staffed with the appropriate physicians and counselors who are equipped with training and tools to get any addict back on his or her feet. As a responsible child of an aging parent with an addiction problem, you should research treatment centers to find one that suits your mother or father best.

Different addicts have different needs when it comes to substance abuse treatment. Because of older adults’ tendencies to have comorbidities, or two or more simultaneous chronic diseases, they need centers that understand senior care. Additionally, women and men become addicted to alcohol and drugs for different reasons, and the two sexes tend to experience their addictions differently. Thus, if your mother is experiencing a substance abuse problem, you might do better to seek a particular women’s rehab in California.

Consider Living Situation

Eventually, your older parent will leave the rehabilitation facility and rejoin greater society. Even if his or her stint in rehab was successful at making your parent sober, the real world reintroduces the triggers that caused him or her to begin abusing substances to begin with. To make absolutely sure your parent continues in sobriety, you may consider moving him or her into your residence for the first few weeks after rehab to keep closer tabs on their behavior. You may also consider a senior’s care facility, where active and non-active seniors are tended 24/7 by a caring group of health professionals.

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Seek Group Support

Even as an adult, your parent’s substance abuse is likely to influence your life. Young children who grow up with an alcoholic parent usually develop behavioral problems. As their households tend to exhibit poor communication and nearly nonexistent structure, children often grow into insecure, imbalanced adults with emotional and psychological health problems. Though you may believe that your development is complete, you are still at risk for a handful of mental and physical health disorders after your aging parent’s substance abuse is uncovered.

You aren’t alone in your struggle to understand your parent’s new addiction, and most people find comfort in talking to people with similar issues to learn more about what emotions and reactions are normal. You can seek out any number of support groups targeting the issues of adult children of addicts and alcoholics. Those more experienced with your situation may be able to assuage your worries and prevent improper behavior from developing.

Keep Yourself Healthy

Although much of your time during this trying period might be devoted to caring for your addicted parent, you must maintain your own health as an utmost priority. People often neglect regular meals and exercise — as well as regular duties to work and family — when their aging parents require aid and attention. However, you will not be able to provide appropriate care if you are not in tip-top shape. Even as you work with your parent to overcome his or her substance abuse problem, you should pay close attention to your body’s needs. Then, when the crisis has passed, you and your parent can be healthy and happy together for their remaining years.