The increase in the number of elderly Baby Boomers has also meant an increase in the number of seniors abusing medication, other drugs, and alcohol. There are many delicate issues that arise in treating the elderly for addiction. However, efforts are now being made to screen and treat instances of elderly addiction in hospitals, nursing homes, and other treatment programs.
Elderly Addiction Statistics
Experts agree that as the population of seniors grows so does the number of those addicted to harmful substances. In 2009, a study was published that found that because of the large size “and high substance abuse rate” of the Baby Boomer generation, the number of Americans over the age of fifty with addiction abuse problems was expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020, double the number from 2006.
Seniors are getting addicted to multiple types of drugs and for a variety of reasons. Some turn to substances because of a fear of aging, chronic pain, or other debilitating cause. Many seniors turn to alcohol, but others are overprescribed powerful pain medications or other narcotic drugs. In addition, many family members, friends, and even doctors can miss the signs of addiction and mistake it simply for old age.
The Jewish Home Lifecare nursing home in New York City’s Bronx neighborhood has started a treatment program for seniors suffering from addiction. Patients that are age sixty or older who come to the nursing home for rehabilitation after a hospital stay are screened for addiction and offered a chance for treatment. As of now, eight beds inside the nursing home are set aside for addicted seniors, and the facility expects to get as many as 480 patients for the program per year.
Alcoholics Anonymous is also offering services specifically tailored to seniors. The organization is hosting special meetings in nursing homes, offering transportation to frail members or even bringing meetings to the homebound. In addition, the Odyssey House has residential and outpatient treatment for elderly addicts and the Betty Ford Foundation has an addiction treatment “track” in Florida called BoomersPlus. In that program, all of the addicts are ages fifty and older.
How Treatment Works
For many addicted seniors that have taken part in an elderly-specific treatment program, they say that being with others their own age helps quite a lot because it is easier to dismiss people younger and with less life experience. This has been particularly effective in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
In the Jewish Home Lifecare center, the addiction treatment program combines physical, occupational and psychological therapy with counseling. Patients discharged from hospitals to the nursing home for medical rehabilitation stay for an average of only 23 days. This is typically because Medicaid will not pay for addiction care beyond the medical care needed.
Therefore, for Jewish Home Lifecare a lot of importance is placed on discharge plan for their addicted elderly. The recovery plan includes putting a support team in place, arranging transportation to AA, or having a visiting nurse keep an eye out for signs of relapse. The nursing home hopes that other facilities will soon copy their treatment program elsewhere and get even more addicted seniors the help that they need.