It’s difficult to be the child of an elderly alcoholic, whether your parent has been an alcoholic for a long time or the alcoholism has only recently begun. While you cannot force them to seek help or treatment, there are steps you can take to help them deal with their alcoholism. Don’t be afraid to confront your parents about their alcoholism. Take care of yourself and seek any assistance you require. Keep them safe by assisting them with medical appointments and collaborating with others.
Method 1 Talking with Your Parent
1. Avoid having conversations with them while they are drinking. If your parent answers the phone and you can tell they’ve been drinking, tell them you’ll call back or talk later. Talking to someone who has been drinking can be difficult and can lead to rage. If your parent is not sober and rational, it will be difficult for them to absorb or respond appropriately to what you are trying to say to them. Even if you’re upset, don’t express it while your parent is intoxicated. We’ll talk about it later.
If you need to end a conversation, for example, “Let’s talk later, I can tell this isn’t a good time,” or “I can tell you’ve been drinking, and I don’t want to talk to you right now.” Please contact me once you have regained your sobriety.”
If you know your parent drinks in the evenings, schedule a conversation with them earlier in the day.
2. Choose your words wisely. Be mindful of your tone of voice when conversing with your parent. You may choose not to use the words “alcoholic” because doing so may make them feel ashamed or bad, leading to more drinking. Because the term “alcoholic” carries a negative connotation, say “your drinking habits” or “alcohol use” instead. Avoid becoming angry or upset when speaking to your parent and instead focus on being gentle and loving.
Concentrate your words on yourself rather than your parent. Avoid blaming your parent by using “I” statements to take ownership of your feelings. For example, you could say, “I’m sad and disappointed when you miss time with your grandchildren due to alcohol.” This is less accusatory than saying, “You prioritise alcohol over your grandchildren, and we don’t like it.”
Keep in mind that your parent is most likely already aware that they have a problem. Speaking harshly or judgmentally to them will not help the situation. Inform them that you are on their side and ready to assist them if they are willing to accept assistance.
3. Discuss your findings. Talk to your parent if you believe they require assistance. They may be unaware that they have become an alcoholic, or they may be in denial. Stating the behaviours you observe can demonstrate that you are noticing alcohol-related changes.
Assume “I’ve noticed a difference in our phone calls recently. You’ve been slurring your words, making it difficult to understand you. Is there something going on?”
“I can tell you’re drinking again by the way you walk and talk,” you can also say.
4. Hold brief conversations. Instead of having one big conversation about alcoholism, have a few small ones that show you care. Before staging a full-fledged intervention, take a few moments to express how you feel about your parent’s drinking. Inform them that you are aware of their drinking habits and the harm they are causing. If they continue to be hesitant to seek help, it may be time to arrange for a professional intervention.
Assume “I’m worried about you. I’ve noticed you’ve been drinking a lot more since Mom died. I’m sad, too, but drinking isn’t going to make the pain go away.”
5. Know when to let go of a problem. If your parent refuses to admit they have a problem and their physical or emotional health is deteriorating, it may be best to refrain from discussing their alcohol consumption. You may need to refocus your efforts on their health. However, discuss your concerns with their doctor, particularly regarding their drinking habits.
Method 2 Taking Care of Yourself
1. Speak with other members of your family. If your parent’s drinking problem is affecting a large number of people in your family, talk to other family members about what you can do. While you cannot prevent your parent from drinking, you can establish ground rules for family gatherings. For example, as a family, agree not to serve alcohol at family functions or to limit alcohol consumption. If your parent’s drinking becomes out of control, have a standard response from everyone in the family. Find ways to come together as a group to be clear about what behaviours are unacceptable.
Say to your parent, for example, “We know you enjoy drinking, but it is not permitted in the presence of your grandchildren. We don’t want them to be around alcohol.”
If you have siblings, talk to them about how they can assist you in dealing with the situation. That way, you won’t have to deal with your parent’s alcoholism on your own. Determine specific roles and responsibilities for each sibling in dealing with the alcoholic parent.
2. Find ways to relieve stress. If dealing with your parent’s alcoholism causes you stress and exhaustion, make sure you take some time to relax. Handling stress on a daily basis prevents it from compounding and allows you to let off steam. Relaxation is an excellent way to deal with stress and can aid in the treatment of depression and mood stabilisation.
Begin meditating, attend yoga classes, or go for a daily walk.
3. Participate in a support group. Join a support group if you’re looking for help for yourself. Surround yourself with people who are going through similar experiences as you. A support group is an excellent place to meet new people, share your concerns, seek advice, and give and receive support.
Speak with others who have an alcoholic elderly parent and inquire about their experiences.
Support groups for family members and friends of alcoholics include Al-Anon, Johnson Intervention, and SMART Recovery Family and Friends.
4. Consult a therapist. Consider seeing a therapist if you feel you need personal support as a result of your parent’s alcoholism. A therapist can assist you in sorting through your feelings and finding ways to cope. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to deal with the stress of your problems, therapy can be an excellent way to gain clarity and relief.
Request a referral from your doctor, a local mental health clinic, or your insurance company. You can also get recommendations from friends and family.
5. Maintain your composure. Dealing with an alcoholic parent on a regular basis can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and overwhelm. Make every effort not to respond angrily to your parent. Take a deep breath before saying anything if you notice your temper flaring. Remind yourself that anger will not solve your problems; rather, it will exacerbate them.
Take some distance if necessary. Go for a walk, go outside, or ask someone to help you. If you are constantly upset, consider hiring a home nurse or other caregiver to give you some space.
Method 3 Taking Action for Your Parent
1. Take them to their medical appointments. Consider accompanying your parent to their medical appointments if they are likely to downplay their alcoholism to a medical professional. Inform their medical professional of any concerns you have. Speak up if your parent minimises their alcoholism or tries to talk around it. Make sure your parent is well-informed about how alcohol can affect their health.
Consult a physician “Do you have any recommendations for alcohol consumption? What effects might these medications have when combined with alcohol?”
2. Work with a specialist to assist your parent in developing a plan. Quitting alcohol abruptly can result in severe, even fatal, withdrawal symptoms. Speak with your parent’s doctor or other medical professionals about developing a healthy and effective strategy for reducing or eliminating your parent’s alcohol consumption.
Your parent’s doctor may prescribe medication or refer your parent to an addiction specialist or mental health specialist to help them reduce their alcohol consumption.
A psychologist or other mental health professional may be able to assist in addressing any underlying psychological issues that may be contributing to your parent’s drinking.
3. Work with assisted living facilities. Check their alcohol policies if your parent is in assisted living or if you are thinking about moving into assisted living. Some allow alcohol to be served, while others prohibit it, while others allow it only under the supervision of a physician, and still others only allow it in certain areas. Consider what might be the best option for your parent. Before making a decision, carefully consider all of your options.
If you are about to admit a parent to assisted living, inform staff and physicians of your parent’s alcoholism ahead of time.
4. Don’t throw away empty alcohol bottles. While you may believe you are assisting your parent, it is more likely that they will go out and buy more. This can lead to resentment, bitterness, fights, or major disagreements, especially if your parent is under the influence at the time. Despite your best efforts, your parent will only stop drinking when they are ready to seek help, not before.
Keep in mind that abruptly removing your parent’s access to alcohol can result in dangerous or fatal withdrawal symptoms.
5. Disallow them to drive. If you know your parent is likely to drink, arrange for an alternate mode of transportation for them to get home. Offer a ride, find a taxi, or make a plan to meet at their location. If you know your parent is apprehensive about seeking help, keep them safe in the meantime. Make plans ahead of time if you know your parent is likely to drink.
If you are hosting a family gathering, host it at your home and do not serve alcohol.
6. If necessary, arrange for an intervention. Offer to assist your parent in obtaining the support and assistance they require to quit drinking. Arrange for an intervention if they continue to refuse help.
Before planning the intervention, consult with an addiction specialist. They can advise you on the best course of action.
After you’ve gotten some professional advice, meet with a few of your parent’s close friends and relatives to plan your next steps.
Plan out what everyone will say ahead of time. During the intervention, all participants should be prepared to discuss how your parent’s alcoholism has affected them and the consequences of not seeking help.
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