Supporting Your Senior Loved One in Overcoming Substance Abuse

Substance_Abuse.jpgIt is hard to know how to help a loved one who is trying to overcome substance abuse. One of the most important things to do for an older adult, or anyone suffering from substance abuse, is to let them know that you are there for them and that you will support them through the process of recovery. Helping a senior loved one find the right treatment options is an important role and one of the best ways that you can offer support through recovery.

How to Detect a Substance Abuse Problem

Remember that substance abuse isn’t just alcohol or illegal drugs. Prescription drugs may also be abused and may pose a particular problem for aging adults. Detecting substance abuse is the first step in recovery. Some of the signs of prescription drug abuse that you may see are:

  • Taking more pills than before. For instance, they may take four to six pills each day when they used to take only one or two. They may also take more medication than is prescribed.
  • Behavioral changes. Are they anxious, sullen, depressed, withdrawn, suicidal, or argumentative?
  • Treatment for excessive use. Have they been treated by their doctor for excessive use of their pills?
  • Keeping secret pills. Do they hide or sneak their pills?

Seniors may feel alone and may not reach out to receive help, even if they’re aware that they may have a problem with substance abuse. Be mindful of the various treatment options and approaches, but use caution if your loved one believes that their spirituality alone will heal them. For instance, Romal Tune, whose mother had an addiction problem, states that their church supported her and encouraged her throughout her journey. However, he states, “Church alone cannot heal anyone.” Faith is a crucial part of healing, but outside help is almost always necessary.



Different Options for Treatment

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), there are some important things you can do to help a loved one try to stop her or his drug use or drinking:

  • Learn everything you can about substance abuse.
  • Offer your support and help to your loved one.
  • Show them you are concerned and demonstrate your love for them.
  • Know that to stop drinking or taking drugs they will need help.
  • Realize that recovery is an ongoing process and support that fact.

Sometimes it is uncomfortable for seniors to attend a group therapy session with younger adults. Older adults grew up in a time where substance abuse and mental illness weren’t talked about and were highly stigmatized. That’s why group therapy, specifically for seniors, is the best kind of group therapy for older adults.

Faith-based rehab facilities are helpful options for seniors with strong religious beliefs. These facilities approach drug and alcohol addiction from a spiritual perspective. In addition, they view addiction as “an attempt to compensate for an inner sense of spiritual emptiness; they teach you how to strengthen your spiritual foundation in order to help you overcome your need for alcohol or drugs.”

The treatment at these facilities often consists of the same therapy as non-spiritual facilities, but they teach spiritual principles and view the “relationship with God as an important aspect of healing,” while other centers may not place as much or any importance on spirituality as a part of the recovery process.

Take Time for Yourself

It is important, as the loved one of a senior trying to overcome substance abuse, to take care of yourself. You will be no help to your loved one unless you treat yourself right first. Be sure to get enough sleep, exercise, eat well, and take time out for you. You can then support your loved one, find them a personalized treatment center, and help travel their journey through recovery and beyond.

Image via Pixabay by 4clients

Article by Cecelia Johnson of

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