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Raise a Glass Without Raising Your Risk

Christian Worstell by Christian Worstell    |    Published Oct 03, 2019    |    Reviewed by John Krahnert

For many people, the image of retirement includes relaxing on the beach with a margarita or enjoying a glass of wine on the porch. But the reality for most seniors is that those adult beverages come with a risk that increases with age.

4 Reasons Seniors Should Limit Their Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol affects older adults differently than younger people, and there are several things seniors should be aware of in order to ensure safe drinking habits. Below are some of the risks associated with consuming alcohol later in life and some tips for how seniors can raise a glass without raising their risk.

1. Lowered Tolerance

Aging can lower your body’s tolerance for alcohol and the effects of an alcoholic drink can hit you more quickly and intensely than in your younger years. As we age, there is a decreased amount of water in our bodies to dilute any alcohol that is consumed.

The accelerated effects of alcohol on a senior’s body can leave them at an increased risk for falls, car crashes and other dangerous accidents. Be sure to eat food while consuming alcohol and alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

2. Bad Medication Interaction  

Older adults tend to take more medications than younger people, and alcohol does not always interact well with prescription or over-the-counter drugs. It’s also important to remember that some medications can stay in the body for several hours, so complications from alcohol consumption can still arise well after taking the medication.

Some of the things that can pose a threat when mixed with alcohol include:

  • Aspirin
    Alcohol mixed with aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding in the stomach.

  • Acetaminophen
    Acetaminophen is an ingredient generally found in Tylenol and other pain or fever-reducing medicines and an added presence of alcohol can increase the chances of liver damage.

  • Allergy, cough or cold medicine
    Allergy, cough or cold medicine taken with alcohol can cause severe drowsiness and nausea along with impaired coordination.

  • Sleeping pills, painkillers and depression or anxiety medication
    A combination of alcohol with either sleeping pills, painkillers or depression or anxiety medication can lead to difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat and memory problems in addition to sleepiness and poor coordination.

Carefully read the bottle of any medication you take and ask your doctor or pharmacist about when it is and isn’t safe to drink alcohol while taking the medication.

3. Complicated Health Problems

Some health problems common to older adults can be complicated further by consuming alcohol. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver problems, osteoporosis, mood disorders and memory problems are just some of the things that can be worsened with alcohol.  

Talk to your doctor about how alcohol consumption may affect your health condition.

4. Increased Risk of Dependency

Seniors often live less social lives. They may be retired from work, live alone and far from family members and engage in fewer social functions. This social isolation can leave older adults more vulnerable to developing a drinking problem and less likely for anyone to be around to recognize it. And any people that they do interact with might mistake the signs of alcohol abuse for aging.  

Seniors may also be more likely to turn to alcohol to deal with physical pain or emotional distress related to aging or the deaths of spouses, siblings and other loved ones.

Forming a social calendar with regular meet-ups and tasks that involve leaving the house can help curb the feeling of loneliness that can lead to alcohol abuse.     

Alcohol Treatment for Seniors

Because of the unique circumstances of an alcohol-dependent senior, many treatment and rehab facilities around the country have opened up that are specifically designed to meet the needs of older adults. Just a few such resources include: 

  • American Addiction Centers — contains a list of several facilities for senior adults
  • Rehabs.com — features a collection of rehab facilities for older adults along with information about substance abuse and treatment for the elderly
  • Recovery.org — has a database of senior-specific rehab centers throughout the country

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that Medicare provides coverage for alcohol abuse screening and counseling. Medicare Part B will completely pay for one covered alcohol screening per year, and if it’s determined that you may be abusing alcohol, you can get up to four face-to-face counseling sessions per year.

Read through some of the helpful guides below to learn more about staying healthy and active as you age.


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