ARIZONA NEWS

1 in 5 seniors turning to alcohol to cope with coronavirus quarantine

Apr 20, 2020, 4:15 AM | Updated: 5:27 am

PHOENIX — If you haven’t called your grandparents recently, you might want to call to see how they’re handling coronavirus quarantine.

With seniors among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, they’ve likely been physical distancing or completely quarantined longer and more severely than most, and they may not be coping with it in the healthiest way.

“Approximately 1 out of 5 seniors is exhibiting signs of alcohol misuse,” Dr. Barry Freeman, senior medical director for OptumCare Network of Arizona, told KTAR News 92.3 FM

“In Arizona, with our shelter in place policy, a lot of our seniors our are struggling with emotions like fear, loneliness, stress, anxiety and just boredom from staying at home, and many may be turning to alcohol as a way to cope.”

Freeman says that U.S. alcohol sales went up by more than 50% last month.

He says that with a lack of face-to-face contact with our elderly friends and family nowadays, it’s important to check in more frequently.

“Some of the signs we should be looking for right now are maybe more confusion than usual or more memory problems,” Freeman explained.

“There could be some mood problems including agitation, think about fatigue or weakness that’s unexplained and then any complaints of dizziness.”

Freeman noted that in the short term, overconsumption in older adults can lead to falls, which can turn into much greater problems for people of advanced age. 

However, in the long term, it can lead to addiction, which can impact health in the coming years and make it more difficult to control existing conditions, such as diabetes.

“If you recognize that someone is having an issue with alcohol misuse or abuse it’s appropriate to bring it to their attention and encourage them to seek help,” Freeman said.

He said resources include contacting a primary care physician, reaching out to Alcoholics Anonymous and OptumCare is also providing a free emotion support care line at 1-866-342-6892.

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1 in 5 seniors turning to alcohol to cope with coronavirus quarantine