A nursing home in the Bronx, New York, is addressing addiction issues in its elderly patients, the Associated Press reports. Staff members screen patients for addiction when they come in for rehab after a hospital stay, and offer treatment to those who need it.
The issue of addiction in the elderly is growing as the number of baby boomers increases, the article notes. One study has predicted that the number of Americans over 50 with abuse problems is expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020.
The Jewish Home Lifecare nursing home has set aside eight beds for addiction treatment, and expects that number to grow to 480 patients a year. The program is designed to reach elderly people addicted to drugs or alcohol who might not otherwise seek help. The nursing home combines physical, occupational and psychological therapy with counseling for patients dealing with addiction.
Because Medicaid will not pay for addiction care once medical care ends, the program pays careful attention to patients’ discharge plan. The plan may include putting a support team in place, arranging transportation to 12-step meetings, or instructing a visiting nurse to look for signs of relapse, such as liquor bottles in the recycling bin.
Elderly patients are at risk of overusing pain medications. Many are struggling with retirement or the death of a spouse. Dementia can mask or worsen the effects of alcohol or drugs.
“If you look at the demographics of our country, the baby boomers are getting older and a lot of them were involved in drugs and alcohol back in the ’60s and ’70s,” said James Emery, Deputy Director of the ElderCare program at the Odyssey House addiction recovery agency in New York. “Even those who were not, a lot of them have been prescribed a lot of narcotics for pain they might have from a back injury or something going on with their knee and they become addicted.”