For most medical professionals, it can be easy to identify when one of their patients begins battling either drug or alcohol addiction. The symptoms can be easy to spot, and doctors can begin making efforts to help their patients get sober. However, when patients are elderly, detecting an addiction problem is not nearly as easy, especially as many of the symptoms of addiction often mimic common symptoms of natural elderly behavior. It is extremely important that medical professionals (as well as loved ones of elderly patients) learn how to identify when an addiction problem is occurring.
How to Detect Addiction Problems in the Elderly
The best and most efficient way to detect addiction problems in elderly patients is to be educated on the symptoms, as well as to be familiar with an elderly person’s normal behaviors. By recognizing symptoms, medical professionals and loved ones can better detect signs of addiction in an elderly patient. Some of the most common symptoms of addiction in an elderly patient include the following:
- Loss of coordination – One of the first signs of addiction in elderly patients is continual unsteadiness and frequent slips and falls. The continual loss of coordination is not common in elderly patients, even though they do experience troubles with balance as they age.
- Changes in relationships – Like users of all ages, elderly patients may start withdrawing from their social relationships, meaning they no longer reach out to others, attempt to make plans or have conversations over the phone. This can be a major warning sign that they are preoccupied with other things, such as drug or alcohol addiction.
- Behavioral troubles – If an elderly patient is misusing one or more substances, then he or she is likely to display changes in behavior, such as depression or severe agitation. These behaviors will come on quickly, and the individual’s mood will likely go from one extreme to the other.
Elderly patients who suffer from constant loss of coordination, changes in their social behaviors, and increased instances of depression or agitation may be suffering from addiction problems.
Determining the Difference between Old Age and Addiction
It can be extremely difficult to differentiate between what behaviors are being caused by old age and what behaviors are developing as a result of an addiction. Medical professionals and loved ones can help determine if addiction is the main cause of these changes by monitoring an elderly patient’s prescription usage, including refill requests, signs of doctor shopping, or statements about symptoms. Medical professionals and loved ones should also be aware of the side effects that the patient’s prescribed medications can cause. By keeping track of these factors, medical professionals and loved ones can better determine the cause of an elderly patient’s decline and work to provide him or her with the treatment needed to achieve a successful recovery.