Medical Alerts for Seniors with Substance Abuse

Medical Alerts for Seniors with Substance Abuse

time icon 5 min read update icon Sept. 28, 2019


Substance abuse of alcohol and opioids in individuals over 65 is on the rise, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment in Rockville, Maryland. Research reveals that approximately 27 percent of all seniors regularly abuse alcohol and prescription medication.

Substance Abuse Overview

There are two classifications of substance abuse in seniors. One is known as ‘hardy survivor.’ This term refers to individuals who regularly abused alcohol and drugs prior to their golden years. The second classification is known as ‘late onset.’ Individuals in this category started using substances after reaching their senior years. Regardless of when the substance abuse started, there are treatment options available that can help a senior cope with the trials of addiction.

Substance Abuse Impairment

Substance abuse causes not only physical impairments but also mental impairments. The addict ceases to be normal when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This puts the senior at increased risk for falls or other accidents that could have staggering physical effects, such as fractures or head trauma. Judgment and cognitive abilities are also affected by substance abuse. A stovetop can be left on, or a cigarette dropped. Many catastrophic things can happen as a direct result of the impairments caused by substance abuse.

  • Slurred speech
  • Wobbly gait
  • Drowsiness
  • Falling
  • Passing out
  • Poor judgment
  • Behavioral changes, which are often dramatic.
Medical Alert Benefits

When a senior is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they are not themselves. They may lack physical and mental control. This puts them at an increased risk of falling and sustaining an injury. They can also inadvertently catch the house on fire, or flood the house by forgetting to turn off a faucet. In the event of such an incident, medical alerts can be beneficial, because the senior can quickly summon help. Substance abuse also creates confusion, and a senior might forget where a phone is to call for help. In these cases, having medical alerts readily available may be a lifesaver.

Symptoms of substance abuse may be moderate to severe.

  • Neglecting responsibilities such as cleaning.
  • Mood swings
  • Behavioral changes
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Tremors
  • Unusual smells
  • Unsteady gait and difficulty walking
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lethargy
  • Paranoia
  • Fearful temperament
  • Forgetfulness
Safety Without Medical Alerts

Seniors with substance abuse issues often opt to forego medical alert services. In such a situation, the senior should take precautions to help ensure their safety when using drugs or alcohol.

  • Difficulty walking: A cane or walker can provide a steady hand-hold when the senior is trying to walk from room to room. A senior must also have access to a cell phone to call for help if they should fall. If the senior regularly forgets to carry their cell phone, installing a phone in each room could be beneficial.
  • Forgetfulness: While using drugs or alcohol, many people start to have bouts of forgetfulness. This leads to many dangers in the home, such as a possible fire from leaving the stovetop on, forgetting to blow out a candle, or dropping a lit cigarette. Ideally, the senior should have a fire extinguisher readily available. They should also carry a cell phone to call for assistance if a fire breaks out. If the senior often forgets to carry the cell phone, a phone can be installed in each room.
  • Falling: Handrails, bath bars, a toilet support frame, and non-slip flooring all help to prevent falls. Clearing away clutter and removing throw rugs are also fall preventatives.
Substance Abuse Precautions
  1. Seek help: Substance abuse problems do not usually go away on their own. A senior will usually require outside assistance to stop drug abuse or drinking.
  2. Medication: A senior will often turn to their physician for help overcoming an addiction. In many cases, the physician will prescribe medication to help. It is imperative to always follow the directions on the label of the medication. Taking too much or too little can be dangerous.
  3. Overdose: Overdose of drugs or alcohol remains a constant threat to anyone who has a substance abuse problem. If the senior suspects they are suffering from an overdose, they should seek medical help immediately.
Substance Abuse Medical Alerts Conclusion

Substance abuse of alcohol and drugs is an ever-growing problem in seniors. Many seniors do not believe they have a problem, and only view their habits as ‘self-medicating.’ Unfortunately, many seniors end up overmedicating continuously, with dangerous or life-threatening results. Medical alerts give the senior the ability to summon help if they should accidentally overdose, fall, sustain an injury, face a home disaster, or encounter another type of dangerous situation.

Kimberly Sharpe - Senior Advisor

Kimberly is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.