Many older adults who drink have consumed alcohol for many years, but others start, or increase their drinking, later in life because of life-altering events.
Problem drinking can go unidentified, as many seniors prefer to drink in their own homes.
In addition, alcohol-related issues such as depression, insomnia, poor nutrition, and frequent falls are often mistaken for normal signs of aging.
Drinking and Falls
Age-related physical changes can make getting around more challenging. Drinking alcohol can affect your judgement and balance, and increases your risk of falling. About 200,000 B.C. seniors fall at least once each year, and falls are the sixth leading cause of death for older British Columbians.
Drinking and Driving
Research shows that alcohol levels generally considered safe for driving are not accurate for people over 60.
Driving demands excellent vision and fast reaction times. Drinking alcohol decreases brain activity, distorts vision and hearing, and affects your alertness, judgement, coordination, memory, and reaction times. Alcohol use increases your risk of being involved in a traffic incident. Older adults get more impaired from even moderate alcohol use than younger people, yet are less aware of this when it happens.
Dealing with Loss
Loss – including the loss of a loved one, a job, good health, mobility, or the family home – can trigger alcohol use. Increased alcohol consumption may also result from boredom, the loss of structure and identity due to retirement, long stretches of leisure time, a lack of social connections, and feelings of loneliness, depression, or inadequacy.
If you notice several of these warning signs, you or someone you know may be drinking too much.
- Sudden physical or mental health changes
- Confusion, memory loss, or drowsiness
- Depression, argumentative behaviour, and resistance to help
- Frequent loss of balance
- Unexplained falls and bruises
- Drinking quickly, or more often
- Neglecting oneself or one’s home
- Medications not working properly
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Feelings of guilt or regret because of drinking
If you think you might be drinking too much:
- Keep an alcohol diary for two weeks to keep track of how much alcohol you actually consume.
- Use the online Alcohol Reality Check to determine whether your drinking puts you at risk.