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My sister is 82 and has been abusing alcohol for the past 2 years. This is "new" behavior! We would like to have her evaluated by a near-psych but she refuses. Not sure what to do next. Any advice????

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I can tell you from personal experience that no matter what you say to her, she will not quit drinking unless she wants to. When my life came crashing down on me in 2013, I began drinking a whole lot more than I ever did. Alcohol numbs me to the things I have to do to take care of hubby, the loss of my mom in 2016, my son’s marriage to a woman who doesn’t like me and constant financial crises. I can tell you that I’m not going to quit if someone tells me I’m slowly killing myself. I know that. And, although I always agree with Barb, I would be livid if a family member went to the doctor with me and without my knowledge told her I am abusing alcohol. I am considering counseling and even joining AA, but it has to be on my terms, and if things in my life don’t change I don’t think I will either.
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It could be possible your sister drank DISCRETELY for her adult life but now that mild dementia has made her artifices transparent those around her notice. That’s why a Geri Psych assessment would be good, as a beginning, to rule out causes for a seemingly new behavior.

Also, I believe a traditional drug/alcohol rehabilitation program would be too physically difficult for an elderly woman. Perhaps a modified rehab could be worked out, if it comes to that. Withdrawal is hard on the body. If there are chronic illnesses you can see how it would be too rigorous.

I agree too that substance abuse is about pain, to alleviate pain. Find the problem BEHIND the excessive drinking!!!
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Attend Alanon, AA meetings so you can learn what not to do (enabling); and how to protect yourself from being destroyed (enmeshment); and how to not take on another person's guilt (detach with love) and have your own life.

You will find there the tools and attitude to help your sister.

.
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Oh happyjack, this is so sad. I don't know what to say about the drinking ... Margaret's response sounds good to me.

But someone in her 80s who leaves burners on (with or without the flame) is perhaps not safe to cook no matter what the reason is. My mother got by with only a microwave her last couple of years in an apartment, and I remember that the stove in my grandmother's home was disconnected. (Drinking wasn't involved for either of them.) Keeping the elderly safe from ourselves becomes one of the goals of our loved ones.

Drinking can cause memory loss, but it can work the other way around, too. She has known for years or has recently discovered that she really likes wine or a gin-and-tonic. Her one glass mid-afternoon has not been a problem. She still remembers that she likes that beverage, but she does not remember that she has already had 3 glasses today. Possible.

A successful intervention ends with the subject accepting treatment, right? If Sis has dementia or some other cognitive impairment that might have a large impact on whether typical treatment could be effective. Even if she agreed with it and wanted to do it, she has to be able to remember what she is taught.

So ... the first intervention I recommend is getting her evaluated. Neuro-psych is good. Behavioral neurologist is good. Geriatric psychiatrist is good. In fact, starting with a geriatrician who would probably make a referral is good. Getting a loved one evaluated who doesn't want that isn't easy and requires some creative thinking. Some members here have used claims like, "Insurance requires that you have a medical examination before your next birthday, to establish a baseline." Whatever it takes, have her evaluated. You don't have to tell her you are worried about possible dementia.

Happyjack, I have three sisters, all younger. I sincerely hope that if they notice these kinds of changes in me, they will take steps to help me. I don't know exactly what you should do, but I certainly admire your intention to help.

Please keep in touch here, and let us know what you try and how it works. We learn from each other.
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Thank you for your responses. I can't say for sure that my sis didn't drink before but definitely not this abusively. Also, she has left the gas stove on (no flame, just the gas) and if another family member hadn't noticed I shudder to think what might have happened. This is twice in one week! I think a neuro-psyche workup might be of value to determine if, indeed, she has dementia. That might put a whole different slant on things. We talked today and she asked me 3 times what I have been doing of late; I know she was drinking so don't know if that contributed to the repetition. We have a very, very strong family history of alcoholism so that's in the mix as well.
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Great suggestions above. Since she's 82, is there some reason that you feel the need to intervene? Is her safety in danger? Is she passing out or driving drunk? Is she competent?
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I am so sorry that this is happening. I have had many close loved ones struggle with alcoholism and it is heartbreaking. In my view, I cannot see her age making a difference in this situation. She is someone who is relying on alcohol and that is a problem.
Can I ask you what you would hope a psych eval would do for the situation? Are you concerned that her drinking is a sign of dementia? Are you sure that this is absolutely new behavior? Or could she have been a dysfunctional drinker for years without anyone acknowledging it? Has something in her life drastically changed in the past 2 years that would cause her pain (in my experience, substance abuse of any kind is usually an effort to treat pain be it emotional or physical pain). Did a loved one die and now she has sadness and too much time on her hands? Would she benefit from a grief support group?
My suggestion would be the same for any age. Express your love and concern without judgment. Statements like "I am worried about you because it seems like you are drinking more now" might be received better than "You are drinking too much and it is bad for you"
What are your specific concerns about her drinking? Is she driving and you are worried about an accident? Is she unsteady on her feet and drinking could cause a fall? Is her health suffering? If it is her health, maybe ask her if you could go to her doctor with her and then bring it up to the doctor that you are concerned about drinking.
Bottom line is that an adult with her cognitive function intact has the "right" to drink and eat what she wants to. All we can do is express our concern with specific examples of why we see it as a problem, offer our support and hope for the best.
Best of luck to you
Margaret
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