WellCare’s New Survey Reveals Aging Parents and Substance Abuse

| April 2, 2018 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

Adults Now More Concerned About Substance Abuse in Aging Parents Than in Their Kids

by Kevin Middleton, Psy.D., vice president, behavioral health programs, WellCare.

You may remember a time when you had to have “the talk” with your kids about the risks of drugs and alcohol.  It likely wasn’t the most favorite of conversations but, like most adults, you probably thought that “the talk” was in your rear-view mirror.

For many adults, however, it seems that it’s time to have that talk again but, this time, with your aging parents.  This is according to the results of a new survey, “The Tough Talk: Aging Parents and Substance Abuse,” released by WellCare.

Aging Parents and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse among seniors is a growing problem. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., 2.5 million older adults have an alcohol or drug problem.  Further, a SAMHSA report shows that the use of illicit drugs; combining drugs with alcohol; and the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals, result in an average of nearly 300 emergency room visits nationwide each day for those aged 65 and older.

And, according to many sources, these numbers will continue to grow as baby boomers age into full-fledged seniors.

With the onus of healthcare oftentimes falling to the adult children, it’s clear that conversations about substance abuse – particularly prescription drug abuse and misuse – need to happen, as adult children do show signs of concern.  In fact, according to WellCare’s survey, 51 percent of all adults polled are now more concerned about the risks of prescription drug abuse among their aging parents than their children.

The problem is that these conversations are not happening as often as they should.

The survey indicated that 90 percent of adults say that they have discussed the risks and consequences of overusing/misusing/abusing drugs and alcohol with their children, while only 68 percent of adults have had that same conversation with a parent, step-parent or parent-in-law.

Why isn’t the conversation happening?  For many, it’s fear of the conversation itself, with 30 percent of survey respondents indicating that they would not feel comfortable having “the talk” with their parents if they suspected substance abuse.  When WellCare dove deeper into why adults wouldn’t feel comfortable, the answers were enlightening:  24 percent of survey respondents indicated that they believed their parents’ doctor would take care of the situation; 22 percent feared that one or both parents would become angry with them; and 20 percent simply didn’t know how to start the conversation.

Finally, and perhaps most concerning, a full 75 percent of respondents admitted that they believe it’s possible to mistake signs of overuse/misuse/abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol for normal behaviors of aging, such as slurred speech, forgetfulness and falls.

The good news is that there are resources available to help with questions, concerns or, simply, where to start.

Please visit WellCare’s blog at https://tinyurl.com/ycu6e7g2 to find helpful information on actionable steps if you suspect substance abuse in a parent.




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Category: Articles, Blog, Eldercare