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Richard’s Almanac: Substance abuse and the elderly


According to various reports from the federal government, substance abuse among older adults is a growing problem in this country.

Last week the Reporter had a front-page story on a vigil to recognize the “opioid crisis” on Long Island. What’s not totally recognized is how the problem is affecting seniors. 

I received some information at the Senior Activity Center put out by the National Institutes of Health, which gives the results of some research on alcohol abuse and other substances among older folk. The studies show that the risk factors for alcohol abuse include being white, male, having chronic pain and physical disabilities. Female seniors who get involved in substance abuse are more likely to use prescription drugs.

What I found difficult to understand is that those of us older adults in good health are apt to drink more than those seniors in poor health. But if the drinking continues and is heavy, physical and mental health declines.

And those in chronic pain can sometimes rationalize their drinking by saying, “At least I’m not using drugs.” But we all know that alcohol is a drug.

Another factor is affluence. Someone on a budget cannot afford to regularly score illegal drugs or spend much time in a saloon drinking. The costs are just too high. Twelve to 20 dollars a cocktail certainly prevents heavy drinking in bars or restaurants.

So forget about the artificial stimulation and enjoy the great treats that this Island has to offer. When the weather cooperates, this place can’t be beat.

I took two of my grandkids out on the boat last Sunday — spectacular weather. Gentle breezes, blue skies, bright sun and warm air. The summer is coming. The best time here. After all, we are a resort community.

And people come to resorts to relax and enjoy themselves. So during the summer those good feelings are infectious and palpable.

I remember that before I retired, I just could not wait to get here during my vacations. Now that I am here all the time I try to get away in the bleakest parts of winter but never in the summer.

On another subject, I read a piece in Sunday’s Newsday in which a woman talked about her husband’s fight with Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from the day-to-day decline of the patient, she explained how the costs were eating up her savings. Apparently Medicare does not cover in-home caregivers. She has to work and needs someone for daily monitoring of her husband. She noted how it cost her some $300,000 last year alone.

So follow all those recommendations about exercising your mind and body and eat plenty of good foods, with emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and chicken.