Some things to know about the Golden Years

LISBON – They are called ‘the Golden Years,” the years between when the children are all grown up with children of their own, retirement is imminent and all the things you wanted to do must be done now or never. We live longer. It’s not at all unusual to live past eighty or be married more than 60 years. And with the advancing of age comes change.

Physical changes affect how older bodies react to the substances they consume. In fact, advises SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and the National Council on the Aging, substance misuse among older adults is one of the fastest growing health problems in America.

As we age, we are more likely to develop chronic diseases requiring prescription medications. About one in four older adults have mental disorders at some time. More than 50 percent of hospitalizations of older adults are related to drug reactions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Alcohol and medication misuse and mental health problems are matters of concern for older adults. Illegal drugs aren’t typically a problem, but misusing alcohol, over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs is. This is not usually done intentionally. And the diagnosis of such problems is overlooked sometimes for several reasons:

Symptoms of alcohol and mediation misuse and mental health problems may be similar to those symptoms that are considered a part of aging.

Many older adults do not seek help with the problem, often because of the shame and stigma associated with mental health diagnoses.

Some people mistakenly believe that such problems for older adults are inevitable and they just aren’t worth the time and treatment.

Some also mistakenly believe that symptoms such as anxiety, depression and sadness are a natural part of aging. (They are not.)

Health care providers may not have the needed information or training to diagnose such issues.

Many adults do not know that physiological changes in older adults can make alcohol and medications harmful at doses lower than those used by young people. The National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends no more than one alcoholic beverage a day for men over 65 and less than that for older women.

Some things you need to know are:

How will alcohol consumption affect your medications? For example, people who have diabetes or high blood pressure should probably not drink alcohol. It affects how your prescription medications will work, even preventing them from doing what they are supposed to do, control diabetes or blood pressure. Alcohol and prescription drugs should NEVER be used together, or even several hours apart.

Problem drinking seriously affects a person’s health and quality of life. Problems that can develop include loneliness, isolation, depression, forgetfulness. It may also impair your problem-solving abilities.

The “Golden Years” can become tarnished when poor health results from misuse of medications and alcohol.

Those years should be the best you can make them, watching grandchildren grow up, enjoying family get-togethers, activities with other older adult friends, traveling…all of the things you have so long talked about doing when the kids were grown up.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities, and has been working for several decades to reduce the stigma of substance abuse and other mental health issues.

For more information about older adults and substance misuse, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.