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How to find senior-friendly rehab center
March 17, 2018

How to Find a Drug or Alcohol Rehab Program for Your Elderly Loved One

How to find senior-friendly rehab centerThings might have begun to change in the way your parents, older spouse or other loved one go about their daily lives. With advancing age often comes the onset of various diseases and medical conditions requiring medications to control, curb, mitigate or cure or promote the ability to function normally. In addition, drinking or misusing prescription drugs or resorting to illicit drugs to combat pain can lead to dependence and addiction. You may be at the point where you wonder how to find a drug or alcohol rehab program for your elderly loved one, should circumstances warrant.


The current population of adults over the age of 65 is 43.1 million and is expected to increase to about 20 percent of the population by 2030. It’s important to keep in mind that the needs of your older loved one are likely dramatically different from those of a teenager or young adult. They’re even markedly different from adults of middle age, although there are also many psychological, emotional and physiological similarities. For example, if your older loved one has preclinical Alzheimer’s disease or has mild to advanced cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease, he or she will require specialized care in addition to drug or alcohol rehab. Likewise, someone with advanced alcoholism coupled with prescription drug addiction likely has numerous physical, emotional and psychological conditions and issues that treatment must address.

Say your elderly loved one suffers from obesity and depression and has a dependence or addiction to alcohol and/or drugs. About 25 percent of older adults suffer from some form of depression. Metabolic syndrome, researchers found, is associated with disease severity and treatment resistance in adults with late-life depression, including severity of symptoms and chronicity. For clinicians, this means paying closer attention to older adults with metabolic syndrome when screening or treating for depression.

Evidence-based practices for older adults with depression include psychotherapies, such as cognitive-behavioral, behavioral therapy, problem-solving treatment, reminiscence treatment, interpersonal psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, multidisciplinary geriatric mental health outreach services, and collaborative and integrated mental and physical health care. There is also encouraging preliminary evidence that collaborative care in older patients with subthreshold depression (not meeting guidelines for clinical depression diagnosis) decreases depressive symptoms and prevents development of more severe depression.

Many older adults find it difficult to sleep, whether from an accumulation of physical complaints, a tendency to worry too much, other emotional issues or a combination thereof. Adding alcohol or drugs to the mix results in disrupted, unrestful sleep. Prescribing sedatives for older adults, however, is risky, as this population often takes numerous prescription medications, may forget they’ve taken a dose and overdose, forget to take at all, or combine sedatives with alcohol.

For those suffering from anxiety and insomnia, getting a prescription for Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin or Valium, among many other benzodiazepines, may seem beneficial in the short term. However, benzodiazepines for older adults is especially risky due to their vulnerability to adverse effects, such as increased risk for falls and fractures, dementia, impaired cognition and motor vehicle accidents. Treatment for benzodiazepine use must address methods for tapering, alternate treatments, and psychotherapy.

Chronic pain is undoubtedly the most widely associated medical condition elderly adults experience, causing them to turn to and abuse opioid prescription medications that have high addiction potential. Indeed, older adults are one of the subsets of the population dramatically affected by the opiate epidemic. Prescription opioid use has also been linked with increased risk of pneumonia, another potentially life-threatening disease in older adults. Weaning off addictive opioids and finding other effective means of coping with pain and resuming everyday life requires professional help, including psychotherapy, treatment modalities, non-opioid medications and therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) learning skills education, participation in support groups, therapeutic activities and more.

Another area where elderly adults may require specialized care is women with alcohol addiction. A recent discovery by neuroscience researchers from Bucknell University is that women may have a genetic risk for alcoholism.

Finding an appropriate licensed and accredited treatment facility providing evidence-based and client-centered treatment for older adults whose senses may begin to dim and who experience other issues such as alcohol or drug dependence or addiction and mental health conditions can be challenging yet will yield better treatment outcomes and prognosis for recovery.


What, then, should you be on the lookout for when searching for a drug or alcohol rehab program at a treatment facility for your elderly loved one? When searching, look for a treatment facility that:

  • Can meet the medical, physical and cognitive needs of your older loved one.
  • Works to preserve dignity, build or rebuild self-esteem, restore functionality and assist your elderly loved one on the path to recovery.
  • Specializes in treating older adults with alcohol or drug use, possible dual diagnosis of substance use disorder and concurrent mental health issue such as depression or anxiety.
  • Offers accessibility for those requiring wheelchairs, have hearing and/or visual impairment.
  • Have pre-existing or co-occurring health issues.
  • Provides holistic rehab therapies and activities that can benefit older adults, including:
    • Acupuncture
    • Meditation and Mindfulness
    • Imagery Therapy
    • Yoga
    • Massage
    • Music Therapy
    • Art Therapy
    • Relaxation Techniques

You also have the choice of inpatient or resident treatment facilities when selecting a drug or alcohol rehab program for your elderly loved one. Keep in mind that a residential program should provide a comfortable environment for seniors, should be a specialized program where your older loved one can interact with others in the same age group and not be integrated with younger adults.

Understand that your elderly loved one may be in a state of denial about his or her drug or alcohol problem or be reluctant to seek treatment. Feelings of shame and fears about the stigma of addiction may also play a part in your older loved one’s accepting of treatment. The best thing you can do is be loving and consistent in your support of your loved one as together you discuss options for a drug or alcohol rehab program. Once you’ve found one or more treatment facilities that satisfy your loved one’s needs, an excellent next step is to physically tour the facility. Do so with your elderly loved one, if possible. First-hand looks and the opportunity to speak with the professionals there may confirm that this is the right drug or alcohol rehab facility and program for your elderly loved one.

For more tips of finding the best addiction treatment for your loved one, check out our checklist, Choosing the Best Addiction Treatment Center.



Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. “Problems with senses may predict problems with older adults’ overall health, ability to function.” Science Daily. Retrieved February 23, 2018.

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. “Progress, but far from perfection on avoiding risky sedatives in older adults.” Science Daily. Retrieved February 23, 2018.

Journal of Psychiatric Practice (Wolters Kluwer Health). “Cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain.” Science Daily. Retrieved February 23, 2018.

MedPage Today. “Prescription Opioid Use Tied to Higher Pneumonia Risk.” Retrieved February 13, 2018.

Medscape. “Benzodiazepine Harms Overlooked, Especially in Older Adults.” Retrieved February 23, 2018.

Medscape. “No End in Sight: Benzodiazepine Use in Older Adults in the United States.” Retrieved February 23, 2018.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Age and Gender-Based Populations: Older Adults.” Retrieved February 223, 2018.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “EBPs for Older Adults with Depression.” Retrieved February 23, 2018.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Finding Quality Treatment for Substance Use Disorders.” Retrieved February 13, 2018.

The JAMA Network. “Effect of Collaborative Care vs Usual Care on Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults with Subthreshold Depression.” Retrieved February 27, 2018.