Do Individuals Over 50 Have Specific Treatment Needs?
Do individuals over the age of 50 years have specific needs in substance abuse treatment? The answer is yes and in getting the right treatment, age does matter. Older adults have distinct physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs that might require specific care in substance abuse treatment.
Older adults have physical health issues that might need attention in treatment. There can be issues with heart difficulties, lack of mobility, visual or auditory impairments, chronic pain, respiratory problems, or auto-immune deficiencies such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Older adults can also have cognitive impairments where their mental acuity is not as good as a younger individual. Other considerations include nutrition and medication management.
Family issues may or may not be a consideration in treatment, as there could be fewer family members that need to be involved in the treatment program. Many older adults experience social isolation as friends pass away or there is an overall reduction of social activities. In addition, some older individuals may not have job-related issues as they might be retired. Many older adults may experience the shame of addiction and subsequent recovery, as there might be an overall feeling of, at that age they should know better.
Treatment for older adults should encompass an individual assessment based on a thorough medical, psychological, and social history. Also, there should be an assessment for any co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse and anxiety or depression, as some older adults may abuse drugs or alcohol to counter the effects of these symptoms or they can use alcohol to counter the effects of certain medications. Aging by itself can be difficult on many individuals and should be addressed in treatment. If detox is needed, this should only be done under strict medical supervision.
Once in treatment some individuals may find it difficult to adapt to the routine or the structure of inpatient care. Care should be provided, which takes into account age, gender, family history, and physical and psychological history. It might be possible in treatment for older adults to participate in group work or 12-step meetings with others in the same age range to build a community of care. Any person who has completed an inpatient treatment program should be provided continuation of care resources. Older adults might require special resources such as age-specific support groups, medical care, or finding community support.