Anyone at any age can have a drinking problem. Uncle George always liked his liquor, so his family may not see that his drinking is getting worse as he gets older. Grandma Betty was a teetotaler all her life until she started having a drink each night to help her get to sleep after her husband died. Now, no one realizes that she needs a couple of drinks to get through each day.
These are common stories. The fact is that families, friends, and healthcare workers often overlook their concerns about older people drinking. Sometimes trouble with alcohol in older people is mistaken for other conditions related to aging, for example, a problem with balance. But, how the body handles alcohol can change with age. You may have the same drinking habits, but your body has changed.
Alcohol may act differently in older people than in younger people. Some older people can feel "high" without increasing the amount of alcohol they drink. This "high" can make them more likely to have accidents, including falls and fractures and car crashes.
Drinking too much alcohol over a long time can:
-Lead to some kinds of cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders, and brain damage.
-Worsen some health conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and ulcers.
-Make some medical problems hard for doctors to find and treat-for example, alcohol causes changes in the heart and blood vessels. These changes can dull pain that might be a warning sign of a heart attack.
-Cause some older people to be forgetful and confused-these symptoms could be mistaken for signs of Alzheimer's disease.