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Binge Drinking Among Elderly Widely Overlooked by Healthcare Professionals

The increasing trend in elderly binge drinking - especially elderly women - is cause for alarm. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that there are more women than men engaging in binge drinking. Older women may be more susceptible to these behaviors because they often outlive men, meaning they have a higher likelihood of facing loneliness and depression as they age, carrying out the latter years alone without their spouse.

Barbara Docherty, author of an article on the subject found at the New Zealand Doctor online, detailed an encounter with one 90 year-old-woman, which led to the discovery of 10 bottles of wine in her weekly grocery supply. While this may seem extreme, Docherty notes that many in the home health field have found this to be the norm. The problem, she says, largely flies beneath the radar in primary healthcare as we typically associate episodic binging with reckless adolescents.

There's a mentality among some healthcare professionals that tends to turn a blind eye to the older generation as they live out the few years they have left - even if it means sending them home to self-medicate issues of depression and pain with alcohol. When doctors and nurses encounter an elderly patient with bruising or a history of falls, it doesn't usually raise red flags for alcoholism, but maybe it should. But as Docherty points out, the older population is not always treated with the highest regard.

A 600 hour NHS study revealed that many nurses patronized elderly patients and at times ignored them or gave them little respect. The study resulted in the release of a DVD entitled 'Dignity - a Tale of Two Wards,' which promoted further training for what compassionate, person-centered, elderly care should encompass.

Changes in metabolism and the numerous medications that many in the older population are forced to take make alcohol a dangerous companion. The struggles of the elderly deserve the same attention and care that we would extend to anyone other member of society, lest we forget that we, too, may someday walk their shoes.

Posted on November 26th, 2012
Posted in Binge Drinking

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