Alcoholism is a disease that can affect people of all ages, including older people. When an elderly parent has alcohol problems, it can be challenging for family members to know how to help them.
The problem is compounded by the fact that as people age, they may be less likely to recognize and admit that their drinking has become a problem.
This can make it hard for adult children of elderly parents who are struggling with alcohol abuse to talk about their concerns or get them to agree to seek help.
Caring for an aging alcoholic parent can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience for adult children.
From managing your own feelings about their drinking (or any other substance abuse) to attempting to get them the help they need, this story can feel like a never-ending cycle.
But there are strategies and resources available that will help make navigating this journey more manageable and provide support along the way.
This article will explore some of the effects of alcoholism on adult children of alcoholics, lasting effects of alcoholism, how to help an alcoholic parent, resources for the family and older person with an alcohol problem, and books for adult children of alcoholics.
Understanding the Challenges of Dealing with an Elderly Alcoholic Parent
Dealing with an elderly parent who struggles with drinking too much alcohol is no easy feat. It can be downright challenging and frustrating at times. However, it’s important to remember that addiction is a disease and not a choice.
In the United States, widowers over 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism. Every year, an estimated 6-11% of hospital admissions among seniors are related to alcohol or substance use. Heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking account for nearly 21,000 deaths each year among those ages 65 and older.alcoholrehabguide.org
Your parent may have been struggling with this illness for years, which could make getting help even more difficult. It’s important to approach this situation with patience and empathy.
Try to have open and honest conversations with your parent, and provide them with support and resources to seek treatment.
Remember, this isn’t something you have to tackle alone. There are organizations and counselors available to help you and your family navigate this difficult situation.
How A Parent’s Alcoholism Affects Their Grown Children
The effects of a parent’s alcoholism on their adult children can be profound. Grown children may experience feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and fear when it comes to dealing with a parent’s drinking problem.
They often struggle to come to terms with the fact that they can’t control or fix their parent’s behavior.
They often have haunting memories of family events that went awry due to their parent’s alcoholism. These memories can make it difficult to form trusting relationships and feel secure in themselves and the world around them.
Heavy drinking and the over-consumption of alcoholic beverages can have a damaging impact on a parent-child relationship.
It is common for adult children who have grown up in an environment of heavy drinking to feel more distant from their parents, or worry that they will become just like them if they start to drink alcohol themselves.
This fear of repeating the same destructive pattern can cause a variety of emotional and psychological issues such as low self-esteem, depression, and even alcoholism themselves.
Grown children of alcoholics may feel guilty for not being able to help their parent, or for having feelings of anger and resentment towards them. They may also blame themselves for the drinking problem, even though they are not responsible.
Research has found that grown children of alcoholics often experience higher levels of depression and anxiety than those from non-alcoholic homes. They are also more likely to develop their own substance abuse problems as adults.
It’s important for grown children of alcoholics to find support from a therapist or support group who understand their experiences and can provide them with the tools to cope with their emotions and help them heal.
A supportive environment where they can talk openly about their feelings and concerns can help them develop healthier relationships with their parents.
It’s also important for children of alcoholics to forgive themselves and accept that they are not responsible for their parent’s choices. This will enable them to move forward in life, developing a healthy self-image and finding new ways to cope with stress.
No matter how hard it is, always remember that you are not alone. You can turn to loved ones and professionals for help when times get tough. It’s important to be kind to yourself and take time out for self-care.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings with trusted friends or family members and seek help if needed.
Classic Characteristics Of Adult Children Of Alcoholics
Adult children of alcoholics (ACOA) often display certain traits that can be indicative of their background. These classic characteristics stem from the ACOA’s environment growing up, and are not necessarily shared by everyone who fits into this category.
Here are some of the most common traits seen among ACOA:
- Fear of abandonment and difficulty forming meaningful relationships
- Difficulty with trust and intimacy
- Low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness
- Difficulty identifying emotions
- Striving for perfectionism
- Extremely independent and avoidant behaviors, even if in need of help
- Difficulty with assertiveness and boundaries
- Poor sense of identity
- Overly sensitive to criticism
It’s important to note that these classic characteristics can manifest differently between individuals, and even within the same individual over time.
If you think you may identify as an ACOA, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional to ensure the best possible outcome for your recovery.
With the right support, you can learn to understand and manage these classic ACOA characteristics and live a happier, healthier life.
Also, keep in mind that many of these classic characteristics can overlap with other mental health issues like depression or anxiety, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis before seeking treatment.
What Are The Lasting Effects?
The effects of alcoholism on adult children of alcoholics can be long-lasting.
Children of parents with alcohol use disorders have a higher risk of developing substance use disorders themselves, as well as health problems such as high blood pressure and brain damage from excessive drinking.
As I mentioned earlier, they may also struggle with emotional and mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
What Happens If A Parent Doesn’t See Alcoholism As A Problem?
If an elderly parent doesn’t see their alcohol addiction as a problem, it can be difficult to convince them to seek help. In some cases, they may become defensive or even angry when confronted about their drinking habits.
I would recommend to speak to an Intervention Therapist. An intervention therapist is a mental health specialist who can help you better understand your parent’s drinking habits and how they impact their life.
They can also provide support and advice on how to best approach talking to your parent about getting treatment for their alcohol addiction.
It is important to be patient and understanding as alcoholism is an illness, not a choice
However, it’s important to continue trying to help them, as alcohol addiction can have severe consequences for their health and well-being.
How Does Alcoholism Affect The Elderly?
Alcoholism can have serious consequences for the elderly, who may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol due to age-related changes in the body.
The incidence of hip fractures in the elderly increases with alcohol consumption. This increase can be explained by falls while intoxicated combined with a more pronounced decrease in bone density in elderly persons with alcoholism compared with elderly nonalcoholics.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholis
Here are some ways in which alcoholism can affect the elderly:
- Increased risk of falls and accidents: Alcohol can impair balance and coordination, increasing the risk of falls and accidents. This is particularly dangerous for the elderly, who may have weaker bones and a greater risk of injury.
- Worsening of health conditions: Alcoholism can exacerbate existing health conditions, such as liver disease, heart disease, and diabetes. It can also increase the risk of developing new health problems, such as cancer.
- Cognitive impairment: Chronic alcohol use can lead to cognitive impairment, including memory loss and difficulty with thinking and problem-solving. In older adults, alcohol-related cognitive impairment can increase the risk of dementia and other age-related cognitive disorders.
- Social isolation: Alcoholism can lead to social isolation, as it can interfere with relationships and social activities. This can be especially detrimental for older adults, who may already be experiencing loneliness and isolation.
- Interactions with medications: Alcohol can interact negatively with many medications commonly prescribed for the elderly, including blood thinners, pain relievers, and sleeping pills. These interactions can lead to dangerous side effects, such as dizziness, confusion, and impaired breathing.
- Increased risk of alcohol-related problems: The elderly may be more susceptible to alcohol-related problems, such as addiction and alcohol poisoning, due to age-related changes in the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol.
It’s important for older adults to be aware of the potential risks associated with alcohol use and to seek help if they are struggling with alcoholism.
Treatment options, such as counseling and medication-assisted therapy, can help seniors overcome alcohol addiction and improve their overall health and well-being.
How To Help An Alcoholic Parent
The best way to help an elderly parent with alcohol addiction is to encourage them to seek treatment.
There are many treatment options available, including:
- Inpatient treatment programs
- Outpatient treatment programs
- Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
- Family therapy sessions
If you’re an adult dealing with an elderly parent’s alcohol usage, here are some tips to help you cope:
1. Educate yourself about the risks and consequences of alcohol use disorder in older adults. Take time to research, read books or talk to a doctor who specializes in treating elderly patients with substance abuse issues.
Understanding the disease can help you better understand your parent’s behavior.
2. Set boundaries and be consistent. If you don’t want your parent to drink, make that clear and stick to it. It may take some time for them to adjust to the new rules, but it’s important that you remain firm in your expectations in order for change to occur.
3. Talk to your parent about their drinking. But be prepared for them to deny it or become defensive. It may take multiple conversations before they start to open up and acknowledge that they have a problem.
4. Offer emotional support and reassurance. Do this as much as possible throughout this process. Make sure you’re providing an environment of understanding and acceptance.
5. Try to find other activities your parent can participate in that are enjoyable. Things such as a hobby or an exercise class. This will help them take their mind off of drinking and give them something else to focus on.
6. Seek out advice. Look for professionals who specialize in addiction and/or elderly care if you need additional support.
7. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. There is an entire support system out there of other adult children who have gone through or are currently going through similar situations as you.
Reach out to them for advice and emotional support when needed. With the right kind of help, your parent can live a healthier life free from alcoholism. Good luck
It’s essential to be supportive and understanding of your parent’s struggles while also setting clear boundaries and taking care of yourself. You may also want to consider reaching out to support groups for adult children of alcoholics, such as Al-Anon.
Is Your Parent Too Old To Recover From Alcoholism?
No, age is normally not a barrier to recovery from alcoholism. While it is true that older people can sometimes have difficulty in quitting drinking due to physical changes that come with aging, there are still plenty of treatment options available for them.
But, alcoholism can disguise other medical issues such as dementia, diabetes and heart disease that might prevent a full recovery.
So, be prepared for the possibility that your older parent may begin to show signs of these other medical problems while or after they have become sober.
I remember a 92-year-old patient of mine who came into our rehab unit because he had been falling down frequently due to his alcoholism.
He was a functioning alcoholic, lucid and able to carry on a conversation very well but due to the combination of alcohol and his age, his balance was quite poor.
Once his withdrawal symptoms subsided, he showed signs of severe dementia – something he did not exhibit while he was drinking. His balance grew worse and he became confined to a wheelchair.
The long-term effects of his alcoholism had taken their toll on his body and he was now suffering from a number of other medical problems that had been covered up by his drinking.
Resources For Your Elderly Alcoholic Parent
There are resources available to help you and your parent navigate this difficult time.
Here are some resources to consider:
- Support groups: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free and widely available support group for those struggling with alcohol addiction. There are also Al-Anon and Alateen groups for family members of alcoholics. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment for people to share their experiences and receive encouragement and guidance.
- Professional counseling: A therapist or addiction specialist can provide individual or family counseling to help you and your parent address the underlying issues contributing to their alcoholism. They can also help your parent develop coping strategies and provide support for their ongoing recovery.
- Treatment centers: There are many treatment centers that specialize in alcohol addiction for older adults. These alcohol and drug rehab centers provide a range of services, including detoxification, counseling, and rehabilitation programs.
- In-home care: If your parent is unable or unwilling to leave their home, there are in-home care options available. These can include a home health aide, nurse, or companion who can provide assistance with daily tasks and offer emotional support.
- Elder care resources: If your parent requires additional support due to age-related health issues, there are many elder care resources available. These can include community resources such as senior centers, meal delivery programs, and transportation services.
- Legal and financial assistance: If your parent is struggling with legal or financial issues related to their alcoholism, there are resources available to help. These can include legal aid organizations, financial counseling, and government programs.
It’s important to remember that caring for an elderly alcoholic parent can be emotionally challenging, and it’s essential to prioritize your own well-being as well.
Consider reaching out to a therapist or support group for yourself to help you cope with the stress and emotions of this situation.
Books For Adult Children Of Alcoholics
I love self-help books, I call them “counselors on the shelf”. In so many ways, they are always there to help when you need them. The trick is, of course, to use the information they dispense.
There are many books available that can help you understand and cope with the impact of growing up in an alcoholic family.
Here are a few recommended books:
Adult Children Of Alcoholics
This classic book is considered a seminal work in the field of adult children of alcoholics. It provides insights into the common traits and behaviors of adult children of alcoholics and offers guidance for healing and recovery.
It Will Never Happen To Me: Growing Up With Addiction as Youngsters, Adolescents, and Adults
Growing up in an alcoholic household can have long-lasting effects on the adult children of alcoholics, even if the parent’s drinking has stopped. Some people may think it won’t happen to them, but this misconception simply isn’t true.
This book takes a closer look at what life is like for the grown child of an alcoholic, with an emphasis on how their experience has shaped them as an adult.
After the Tears: Helping Adult Children of Alcoholics Heal Their Childhood Trauma
This book provides practical tools and techniques for healing from the emotional wounds of growing up with an alcoholic parent. It covers common issues such as guilt, shame, forgiveness, and understanding.
The ACOA Trauma Syndrome
This book explores the concept of trauma syndrome, which can result from growing up in an alcoholic family. It offers guidance for healing and recovery from the effects of childhood trauma.
Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families
This book explores the impact of childhood trauma on adult behavior and provides strategies for healing and recovery.
It focuses on the effects of alcoholism, abuse, neglect, and other dysfunctional family dynamics on grown children. The book also covers topics such as reclaiming lost boundaries and rebuilding relationships with parents, siblings, spouses, friends, and even one’s self.
Perfect Daughters: Adult Daughters of Alcoholics
The book is divided into three parts. In the first part, there’s an overview of the impact of growing up in an alcoholic household, including how it affects a daughter’s sense of self, relationships, and life choices.
In the second part, the author explores the various coping mechanisms that daughters of alcoholics may use to deal with their emotions and stresses, such as denial, avoidance, and blaming.
The third part is filled with advice on how adult daughters of alcoholics can take steps to heal from their experiences and rebuild a healthy life for themselves.
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
Although not specifically about adult children of alcoholics, this book offers insights into the codependent behavior that is common among those who grew up in alcoholic families.
The author, Melody Beattie, introduces readers to the concept of codependence and how it can manifest in relationships.
She encourages readers to examine their own behaviors and attitudes and work towards valuing themselves rather than relying on others for validation or approval.
Reading books can be a helpful supplement to therapy and support group work for adult children of alcoholics. These books can provide guidance, understanding, and support as you navigate the complex emotions and dynamics of growing up in an alcoholic family.
Resources For You, The Caregiver
If you are a child of an alcoholic, it’s essential to take care of yourself and seek support when needed. Al-Anon is a support group for family members of alcoholics, and they offer resources and meetings for people in your situation.
Additionally, if you are struggling with your own substance use disorder, it’s essential to seek treatment for yourself as well.
There are many treatment options available for substance use disorders, including inpatient and outpatient programs, as well as support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.
It’s important to remember that while dealing with an elderly alcoholic parent can be challenging, there is good news. Alcohol addiction is a treatable disease, and with the right support and treatment, your parent can recover and live a healthy, fulfilling life.
By seeking out resources and support for yourself and your parent, you can help them overcome their addiction and build a better future for your family.
In addition to traditional treatment options, there are also alternative therapies and remedies that some people find helpful.
For example, some herbal remedies may help with symptoms of alcoholism and withdrawal symptoms, although it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional before trying any new treatment.
Dealing with an elderly alcoholic parent can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that help is available.
By understanding the effects of alcoholism on adult children of alcoholics, learning about treatment options, and seeking out resources and support, you can help your parent overcome their addiction and build a brighter future for your family.
Remember to take care of yourself and seek support when needed, whether that’s through therapy, support groups, or other resources.
With the right care and support, you and your family can overcome the challenges of your parent’s alcoholism and build a brighter future together.
No matter how difficult the challenges, you and your parent can work together to overcome them. You don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out for help today—you’ll be glad you did.
Together, we can create a better tomorrow for our families. Let’s take the first step together!