Alcohol use is a growing issue for older adults, who report binge drinking more frequently than any other age group in America. The symptoms of alcohol dependency —memory loss, difficulty balancing, unstable moods, and fragility — often get mistaken for signs of aging, which makes it easy for medical providers and caregivers to overlook. The infographic below, created by Nursing@USC’s online FNP program, based on the original research by the program’s own Dr. Benita Jeanne Walton-Moss, explores the fundamental strategies of addressing alcohol dependency with women over 65.
How to talk to a loved one about alcohol:
● Familiarize yourself with standard drink sizes: Before you can accurately assess drinking habits for yourself or someone else, revisit the standard sizes of different types of alcoholic beverages (like the pictures shown below). Especially for red wine, it’s easy to overestimate a standard pour when the drink itself only takes up a small portion of the glass. People often forget how small a standard drink looks and can get carried away with servings.
● Take the time to talk through each question: Even though the questions recommended in the graphic seem simple, the answers can be complicated, daunting, and often hard to admit. Women over the age of 65 grew up in a time when drinking alcohol was deemed a social taboo, so articulating answers can come with difficult nuances. Taking the survey question by question, and allotting time for discussion between each can help keep everyone on the same page.
● Maintain a positive, sensitive attitude: Because conversations about alcohol can feel awkward, it’s important for caregivers to stay positive and empathetic when broaching a sensitive subject. Showing a compassionate interest and level of understanding helps people feel comfortable and valued, especially when discussing potential lifestyle changes.
What’s most important for facilitating a meaningful discussion about alcohol, is to position yourself as an advocate for your loved ones, and let them come to a decision when they’re ready. Consult a doctor or nurse practitioner about strategies that are right for your loved ones, before approaching the situation on your own. If you or someone you know is at risk of alcohol dependency or misuse, visit www.niaaa.nih.gov for more information and click here for information on Medicare coverage of alcohol counseling.