When many of us think of addiction, we think of a certain type of person. Maybe it’s a rebellious teen or a homeless person wasting away – or maybe it’s a rock star or a movie star. But whoever we’re thinking off, we’re likely to be thinking of someone young. This is a dangerous and false stereotype: the fact of the matter is that a great many addicts are senior citizens. Seniors, who can easily become victims of related issues like depression and who may have trouble with mobility that leaves them with fewer healthy hobbies to choose from, are prime targets for addiction, which preys on depression and encourages isolation and inactivity.
At least 2.5 million older adults suffer from some type of addiction, and widowers over the age of 75 become alcoholics at higher rates than married or younger men and women (and widows). And, tragically, many seniors don’t see much of a reason to tackle their substance abuse problems or many options that cater to people in their situation. But there are paths forward from addiction for seniors.
Making a choice
Seniors in the United States are covered by Medicare, a government-sponsored health insurance program. Some have additional Medigap plans that give them further coverage and fill gaps in Medicare’s benefits. The good news is that insurance programs like these will subsidize the cost of treatment for substance abuse.
Seniors should speak to their primary care physicians about seeking help with experts. Substance abuse therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists are used to working with patients of all ages, and organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous are not limited to the your or to any other demographic.
In fact, seniors have some options available that cater specifically to them. Specialty rehab centers work only with seniors, giving elderly addicts a chance to grapple with their problems while among people of their own age.
Different options will be better for different seniors, of course: addiction is not a one-size-fits-all problem. If you or a loved one is a senior struggling with addiction, speak with a medical professional about getting help. There are tools online to help patients pick the perfect rehab, and there are outpatient and even in-home treatment options for those that feel they can’t attend an on-site rehab. Twelve-step programs and other organizations give seniors a reason to get out of the house and create strong interpersonal bonds while fighting the problems that keep them down.
Though seniors may not be the face of addiction, the reality is that far to many of our elderly citizens struggle privately or publicly with substance abuse options. But while the public may not be aware of the extent of the problem, medical professionals and rehab centers are – which is why there are plenty of treatment options and lots of different paths forward for seniors who are struggling with addiction. It’s never too late to reclaim a life, so if you or a loved one are dealing with an addiction, seek help.