Meghan, aged 73, was being cared for by multiple doctors, none of whom were consulting with one another, and all of whom were prescribing medications for her myriad of issues.
The combination of these meds was mind numbing, but Meghan continued to take them while secretly upping her medication for insomnia.
Before long, she began shopping around for other doctors in order to obtain even more sleeping pills. Once she got her hands on the multiple prescriptions, her life went straight down hill.
It wasn’t long before she did everything she could to keep herself isolated from friends and family. Everyone could see the changes in her; slurred speech, forgetfulness, and occasional stumbling, but they all figured it was due to her age.
When Meghan got arrested for driving under the influence, the truth came out. Meghan spilled the beans about the multiple sleeping medication prescriptions she was abusing.
Her family and close friends had to finally face facts. Their grannie/mom/ younger sister/ best friend had a serious substance abuse problem.
After much soul searching, the family and friends reached out for guidance and support and then as a group decided to intervene.
Her son and daughter, their four teenage kids, her two older sisters and her best friend all came together. They each wrote letters to Meghan about how they were being personally affected by her dependance on sedatives and implored her to get help.
The following day, everyone arrived unannounced at her house and read the letters to her.
She was filled with shame, guilt, and remorse. She cried and cried. They all surrounded and hugged her, some joined her in her weeping. When she promised to try and get help, everyone began to cry tears of hope.
It took a Herculean effort and many disappointments for the family to finally locate the right treatment facility for her.
After almost a year and two relapses, Meghan finally got herself clean and now her family and friends have the Meghan they had lost back home again with them.
We know that addictions can start innocently enough when a retiree is trying to cope with a host of physical, medical and psychological problems and turns to booze or pills to cope. We are also aware that this unhealthy dependance can result in a downward spiral, like Meghan experienced, beginning with unsuspecting misuse, followed by willful abuse, and eventually culminating in addiction and denial.
Unfortunately, only 18 percent of the approximately 14,000 national treatment facilities provide the focused attention and care seniors require. Seniors need a treatment program that addresses both their dependency issues as well as their other preexisting mental, physical and medical issues in order for recovery to be successful.
As Meghan’s family quickly discovered, finding an out patient or residential program with this holistic approach is about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.
Rehab centers simply do not have the capacity or expertise to accommodate all of the other legitimate needs a senior may arrive with. Their traditional treatment program schedules and demands simply don’t mesh with the host of other issues a senior arrives with.
AARP recently published a comprehensive study on this subject entitled, “Not As Prescribed” describing what a holistic treatment program should encompass.
If you are searching for the right place for your loved one make sure they offer the following:
• An on-site qualified treatment team and medical facility geared to address senior needs.
• A schedule that can accommodate outside medical appointments, treatments and caregiver responsibilities.
• A program offering extensive interaction with peers of their own age.
• Multiple scheduled rest breaks
• A case management program focusing on senior issues including pain management.
We all have to face what appears to be overwhelming challenges in our journey through life. We’ve had moments when we’ve needed to look inward to find the strength to overcome personal challenges. The disease of substance use disorder is such a challenge and it can be fatal.
You and your loved one have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you choose to stop hiding in the shadows, step into the light, accept help, and begin to heal FULL SPEED AHEAD.
Allan Goldstein is a retirement coach and Long Beach resident.