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Tailoring Treatment Programs for Seniors With Substance Use Disorder

In the past, older adults were less likely to be diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD). However, the "Baby Boomer" generation has an increased risk of experiencing SUD. According to Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, "The prevalence rates of substance use disorder (SUD) have remained high among this group as they age, and both the proportions and actual numbers of older adults needing treatment of SUD are expected to grow substantially." The mental health and addiction recovery experts at Driftwood Recovery use evidence-based and alternative holistic therapies to help seniors with substance use disorder build a sober future.

Increased Risk of SUD in Older Adults

Many factors have contributed to the rise in SUD among adults over the age of 65. Individuals born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s, often called the "Baby Boomer" generation, have a more relaxed view of drug and alcohol abuse compared to earlier generations. Less judgment surrounding substance abuse makes it more socially acceptable. According to Addiction and Health, "With an estimated prevalence of 4%, substance abuse amongst persons who are 65 years and older is increasing [. . .] Substance abuse is difficult to recognize in the older adults, but once identified, presents its own challenges as only 18% of substance abuse treatment programs are designed for this growing population."

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and prescription drug abuse are the two most common addiction issues experienced by older adults. Some of the known risk factors for developing SUD later in life include:

  • Substance abuse in childhood or young adulthood
  • Mental health disorders
  • Age-related cognitive decline or physical health concerns
  • Chronic emotional or physical pain
  • Lack of social support, social isolation, or loneliness
  • Family history of substance abuse

Healthcare providers offering substance abuse treatment must find creative ways to accommodate the needs of older adults. For example, an older adult may experience memory lapses or other issues impacting their ability to participate in treatment. Case managers, nurses, counselors, and other staff members collaborate with each other, clients, and families to identify any age-related or co-occurring health issues that may impact a person's ability to participate in treatment.

Treatment for Seniors With Substance Use Disorder

Driftwood Recovery and other treatment facilities offering care to individuals over 65 have a responsibility to provide appropriate treatment for seniors living with SUD and dual diagnosis. Often, older adults have multiple health conditions and prescription medications they take daily to manage their symptoms. The presence of specific disorders and medications may affect treatment for substance abuse. For example, older adults with chronic pain and opioid use disorder (OUD) may need additional support services to manage their pain without the aid of opioids, painkillers, or other highly addictive drugs.

Clinicians use comprehensive assessments to determine what factors may impact a client's treatment and how best to support their health. Every member of an older client's care team should have personal experience or training related to treating older adults for SUD and mental health disorders.

Seniors With Substance Use Disorder Face Unique Challenges During Outpatient Treatment

Everyone has a unique recovery journey. The care team is responsible for ensuring their skills and services provide clients with the necessary services to meet their needs and personal goals. Driftwood Recovery provides staff members with the resources to improve their skills to meet the needs of various demographics, including seniors.

Some of the most common challenges older adults may encounter during treatment for SUD include:

  • Fear of stigmas, judgment from loved ones, or ageism
  • Transportation issues
  • Misconceptions about healthcare and mental health services due to generational differences
  • Memory problems and difficulty remembering medications, schedules, and other essential aspects of treatment
  • Medication side effects causing physical or emotional symptoms and side effects

Clients in intensive outpatient programs (IOP) must balance treatment with family responsibilities. In some cases, older adults require a higher level of care during the initial stages of treatment to ensure they remain focused on their recovery and have access to the resources they need to attend treatment sessions.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), "Caregivers and families need resources to help navigate initial identification, screening, assessment, and treatment options for older people who misuse substances or have SUDs." Intensive outpatient programs offer additional structure and support. Many older adults with SUD benefit from the greater flexibility of IOP, allowing families to become more involved in their loved one's recovery.

How Does Driftwood Recovery Help Seniors With Substance Use Disorder?

Driftwood Recovery treats adults of all ages and backgrounds. Clinicians have the training, experience, and skills to provide older adults with the support they need to achieve and maintain sobriety.

The addiction recovery and mental health experts at Driftwood Recovery provide older adults and their loved ones with the following:

  • Family therapy and support services to ensure family members play an active role in their loved ones treatment
  • Information about how their diagnosis and any co-occurring disorders may impact treatment and long-term recovery
  • Community-based and other local resources for addressing barriers to treatment, including transportation

Age-related physical disorders and the effects of some prescription medications may alter how seniors react to treatment for SUD. Staff are responsible for monitoring older adults throughout their recovery. Driftwood Recovery understands the importance of providing integrative, whole-person care to older individuals. The care team can work with the client's family doctor and other outside members of their care team to create a positive and consistent treatment experience.

Older adults have unique needs and may require additional accommodations during treatment for substance use disorder. Rehabilitation programs require clients to actively participate in treatment by taking part in individual and group therapy, support groups, and other recovery services. Older adults might find it more challenging to attend treatment or remain engaged. Older adults may encounter unexpected health issues younger clients do not experience. Clinicians and support staff play an essential role in ensuring older adults have access to the resources they need to attend treatment sessions and maintain sobriety. The care team provides clients with a tailored treatment plan and essential support services. To learn more about the dedicated team at Driftwood Recovery, call us today at (512) 759-8330.