How to Prevent Substance Abuse in the Elderly

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Preventing Senior Substance Abuse

By Ted Holmgren, 9:00 am on December 7, 2015

According to Drug and Alcohol Dependence, in 2001 there were 1.7 million Americans over 50 with substance abuse problems. That number is expected to be 4.4 million by 2020. Since many seniors take a variety of pills to help with age-related complications, families providing home care in Scottsdale may not notice when their elderly loved one is abusing medication. However, it is important to pay attention to your loved one’s medication management to help prevent more severe health complications from developing.

Know the Signs

Substance abuse is often difficult to detect in the elderly because many of the signs can be attributed to other causes. The following are common signs of substance abuse in older adults. Of course, just because your loved one exhibits these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is abusing medication. However, they may call for further investigation.

• Numerous doctor changes
• Multiple complaints of missing or stolen medication
• Requesting early refills 
• Appearing overly sedated or otherwise impaired
• Frequent mood swings

Encourage Socialization

Feelings of isolation and depression are a leading cause of substance abuse among seniors. These feelings are often triggered by difficulty adjusting to major life changes such as retirement, the death of a spouse, or the lack of nearby friends and family. You can help your loved one combat depression and isolation by encouraging him or her to remain active and build connections with others. For example, encouraging your loved one to volunteer or join a senior social club can help him or her build new friendships and find a renewed sense of purpose.

Talk to Your Loved One About His or Her Medications

Even though it may be an awkward conversation, you should take the time to become familiar with your loved one’s medications, why they are prescribed, and how they should be taken. Look for signs that could indicate potential abuse or misuse, including:

• Multiple prescriptions for the same medication from different doctors, especially narcotic pain medications
• Prescriptions with too few pills remaining according to the date of the last refill
• Medications filled at multiple pharmacies for no apparent reason

Monitor Medication Use

Whether you suspect your loved one is abusing medications or is just having trouble remembering to when to take the medication, you can use an electronic pill organizer to monitor his or her regimen. The organizers are designed to send alerts to you and your loved one when medication is due to be taken or if a dose is missed or doubled, which limits the opportunity for drug misuse or abuse. These devices can offer you peace of mind of knowing your loved one is taking medication correctly, while still allowing him or her as much independence as possible. A part-time or 24-hour caregiver in Scottsdale can also assist with providing medication reminders.

Though medication prescribed by a doctor can help boost your loved one’s health, it’s important to make sure his or her pills are being taken correctly. If your loved one needs assistance with medication management, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our caregivers can offer timely medication reminders and report to your family if signs of potential misuse are present. We also offer specialized Parkinson’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s care in Scottsdale for seniors who need more extensive care. For more information, call one of our experienced Care Managers at 480.448.6215 to schedule a complimentary consultation.