The “Silent Epidemic” of Addiction in Older Adults

Substance use disorder (that is, alcohol and/or drug abuse) among those aged 65 and up is often underestimated and under-diagnosed.  The number of those suffering with these issues is on the rise (as evidenced by the stats on ER visits), but those accessing treatment for addiction is not increasing at the same rate.  This “silent epidemic” is dangerous. Addiction in late-life can be caused by a variety of factors, and it take many different forms. But drug or alcohol abuse among the elderly is particularly dangerous as compared with those in mid-life because senior citizens are more susceptible to the deteriorating effects of drugs and alcohol. Individuals over 65 have a decreased ability to metabolize these substances, and they have an increased brain sensitivity to the chemicals. This makes it dangerous for seniors to use drugs or alcohol at all, even if the person isn’t addicted. Along the same line, there are a high number of seniors using benzodiazepines to treat anxiety, pain, or insomnia. These are some of the most dangerous prescription drugs for seniors and are highly addictive. The rate of senior citizens addicted to benzos has increased every year.

The key to getting treatment is to first identify the problem and then to speak up. The following are signs of substance abuse in older adults:

  • Memory problems
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Irritability, sadness, depression
  • Unexplained chronic pain
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Wanting to be alone often
  • Failing to bathe or keep clean
  • Losing touch with loved ones
  • Lack of interest in usual activities

Once an addiction is suspected, it is critical to seek treatment from programs and clincians that specializes in older adults and addiction. To learn more, please read our newsletter about this topic or visit the National Council on Seniors Drug & Alcohol Rehab.  And please contact us with any questions or to talk to us about counseling for yourself or a loved one.

Advance Care Planning: “It always seems too early, until it’s too late.”

Today is National Healthcare Decision Day (NHDD)! NHDD started in 2008 as a way to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about advance care planning, and this year NHDD is whole week (starting today).  For Georgians this week is all about getting people to talk to their loved ones about their healthcare wishes and to complete a Georgia Advance Directive. So, let’s start talking!

First, what is the Georgia Advance Directive?
It is a statutory document that combines the healthcare power of attorney and living will into one document. It is the primary advance care planning tool in Georgia and has four main goals:

  1. Names someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot or do not want to make your own  healthcare decisions.
  2. Communicates your treatment preferences if you are ever in a coma or diagnosed with a terminal illness and cannot speak for yourself.
  3. States your wishes for cremation or burial.
  4. Allows you to recommend a guardian if you ever need a guardian in the future.

Who Needs an Advance Directive?
Almost every Georgian over the age of 18 should have an Advance Directive in place. This is not a form just for the elderly or the disabled. Accidents, sudden illnesses and healthcare crises are equal opportunity events that can cause severe impairment in any of us at anytime. Completing an Advance Directive proactively (before it’s too late) will authorize an informed person to make your important healthcare decisions should you be unable to do so.

Where can I find the form?
This is a statutory form and can be found for free online. You can download a copy here. After you print it out, complete it with your loved ones, sign it, and then have two witnesses sign it. No notary or attorney is required.

What do I do with the form once completed?
You should give a copy of this completed form to people who might need it, such as your health care agent(s), your family, and your physician. Keep a copy of this completed form at home in a place where it can easily be found  if it is needed. Do not keep it in a safe or a safety deposit box. Review this completed form periodically to make sure it still reflects your wishes.

Completing a Georgia Advance Directive is an important step in planning ahead for future incapacity. It is never too early to talk to your loved ones about yours (and their heatlhcare wishes). We address this issue with each of our clients and their families, and we help them complete an advance directive when appropriate. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Getting Mental Health Help in a Crisis

What would you do if your spouse became suicidal in the middle of the night? What if you started having thoughts of suicide? Who would you call if you found your elderly mother disoriented and acting bizarrely one afternoon during a regular visit? How would you help your uncle with a substance use problem that continues to get worse? Knowing what to do in a mental health crisis goes beyond common sense—you must know the resources in your area that you can trust in such tough situations. Our clinical social workers work with individuals in one-on-one or group therapy during normal business hours. Our sessions are scheduled and not usually in response to a crisis. It is our goal to avoid any mental health crises from occurring through ongoing treatment, but we are prepared to connect with crisis teams when needed. Here is a list of the mental health emergency resources in Georgia:

Georgia Crisis and Access Line— A free 24/7 helpline providing mental health crisis assistance and access to mental health resources throughout the state of Georgia
1-800-715-4225
mygcal.com

9-1-1-For emergencies in which law enforcement may be called, ask for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer
Dial 9-1-1

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

The Friendship Line—A 24/7 hotline/warmline for people 60+ who may be lonely, isolated, grieving, depressed, anxious and/or thinking about death or suicide. Also for caregivers and/or disabled adults of all ages.
1-800 -971- 0016
https://www.ioaging.org/services/all-inclusive-health-care/friendship-line

Crisis Text Line–Reach a trained counselor by text message. Youth and teens are especially welcome.
Text ‘GA’ to 741-741
https://www.crisistextline.org/

Veterans Crisis Line–For veterans or people concerned about one.
Phone: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1
Text: 838255
TTY: 1-800-799-4889
https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx?account=Veterans%20Chat

If you are in the Metro Atlanta area, many of our psychiatric hospitals are available for walk-in assessments 24/7:
Ridgeview Institute, 3995 S Cobb Dr, Smyrna, GA 30080
Peachford Hospital, 2151 Peachford Rd, Atlanta, GA 30338

Bookmark this information and share with others. It’s important to know who to call when a crisis occurs. If you have questions during business hours, please contact us at (678) 637-7166 or email us anytime at inquiry@mindfultransitions.com

Welcome to the Mindful Transitions’ Blog

Welcome to Mindful Transitions’ page for News, Views and Social Media!

We are glad you are here! Our inspiration for this blog is to provide helpful information and healing resources to support older individuals with mental health needs and those in caregiving roles (either professional or familial roles).   As licensed clinical social workers, we believe that every single human being deserves to have trusted support during challenging seasons of life. We believe that you have the capacity to create a life that feels good to you and that you can make the transition through difficult times feeling whole and at peace. Month after month, we’ll be delving into various mental health and aging topics. Check in on our blog regularly as we share info on mental health, aging, personal growth, and resources in Metro Atlanta. We strive to keep our followers informed of advancements in therapy for older adults, the latest research on best practices for older adults, and changes in mental health and aging resources in Metro Atlanta.

If you are new to Mindful Transitions, please visit our About Us Page to check our awesome team of clinical social workers and our FAQ Page to learn more about our practice. If you are seeking help for yourself or someone you know, please contact us at (678) 637-7166 or email at inquiry@mindfultransitions.com