Getting Involved in A Loved One’s Addiction Treatment Helps Everyone
Submitted by Laura Calvert
Recovering from addiction is a long and difficult process. It’s one that is more likely to be successful if the recovering addict has plenty of support. Family members who get involved in this process... perhaps by initiating and attending family therapy sessions... find that they themselves benefit too.
Types of addictions in the elderly include addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, addiction to gambling, addiction to shopping, addiction to food or eating disorders.
The risk factors for developing addiction in the elderly are often similar to those in younger adults, such as mental health issues and a history of addiction. Other risk factors may include loneliness, physical health problems, medication misuse, and polypharmacy (the use of multiple medications).
Warning signs of addiction in the elderly are similar to addiction in adults of any age. These can include changes in behaviour, physical health problems, increased isolation or withdrawing from social activities, and financial difficulties.
The Family’s Role in Addiction and Recovery
Living with alcohol or substance use disorder often involves the whole family, with positive outcomes being a shared responsibility.
Families naturally come together in times of need. They are the ones who will stand up for you and have witnessed both your best and worst moments.
This deep-seated loyalty and dedication within the family unit plays a critical role in the recovery journey from alcohol use disorder.
When families unite to provide support and focus on positive outcomes together, it can help prevent many challenges during the recovery process. A recent column in APA’s journal Psychiatric Services recommends involving patients and caregivers in decision-making regarding the patients’ care. According to medical professionals Johannes Harmann, M.D., and Stephan Heres, M.D., caregiver involvement can enhance clinical decision-making and improve health outcomes for both patients and caregivers.
Despite the value of family participation being supported by evidence, families often remain passively involved. A recent review of family involvement in care planning found that many families did not feel invited or engaged in collaborative treatment planning. Mental health professionals were generally perceived as unwelcoming to family involvement. A 2016 report from the National Alliance for Caregiving revealed that over half of caregivers had been informed that mental health providers cannot communicate with them. Furthermore, about four in ten reported not being included in conversations with providers as frequently as they should have been.
Confidentiality remains a major concern. The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law designed to safeguard individuals' rights, restricts the sharing of healthcare information for those who do not wish to disclose it (refer to the fact sheet on confidentiality). Providers can share information with family members or others if the individual grants permission by signing a release or if the person is present and does not object. Providers can also disclose certain information if they determine, based on professional judgment, that it is in the individual’s best interest.
When families actively participate in care, outcomes improve. Harmann and Heres highlight that "the literature clearly indicates that caregiver involvement produces better outcomes, including reduced hospitalization and relapse rates." For instance, a 2014 study involving over 200 veterans with serious mental illness discovered that increased family participation significantly enhanced patient outcomes.
Warning Signs of Alcoholism
Imagine this scenario: a 2014 study, involving over 200 veterans with serious mental illness, discovered that increased family participation had a remarkable impact on patient outcomes. Symptoms were alleviated while recovery rates skyrocketed. And that's not all! Another recent study highlighted the importance of family involvement, emphasizing the need for healthcare providers to value family knowledge. They even suggested providing written explanations about confidentiality to foster better communication and participation. So, how can you actively engage in care? Start by discussing your involvement with your family member. Determine which information is shareable and decide how to communicate (phone, email, meetings). Remember to review the plan occasionally to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Now, let's talk about appointments. We all know they tend to be short, usually around 15 minutes. To make the most of this limited time, we suggest being prepared. Create a list of questions and notes beforehand, especially regarding any changes in mood or reactions to medications. During the appointment, confirm your understanding of what the provider says, and don't hesitate to ask for clarification or further explanation if needed. The key is to focus on common goals and work together towards the well-being of your loved one.
Signs of Addiction in Seniors
Our Resources section can help you find the information and tools that you need. We have courses, videos, checklists, guidebooks, cheat sheets, how-to guides and more.
You can get started by clicking on the link below. We know that taking care of a loved one is hard work, but with our help you can get the support that you need.
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How to Talk to Your Aging Parent about Their Addiction
Family Members Need To Heal Too
Addiction doesn’t only affect the addicted person. Close family members are often profoundly affected by the addiction. Which means they also need time and help to recover from the trauma that it causes.
Getting involved in the treatment process can help immensely. Especially when treatment includes family therapy sessions... in which all family members get the opportunity to talk... about how the addiction has affected them.
This is particularly important for two reasons:
Communication issues are often a significant problem in families affected by addiction.
And this particular problem... can be exacerbated by the treatment process if family members don’t get involved.
Another important issue is that many close family members, especially children of addicts... tend to feel that they are somewhat to blame for the addiction. They need help understanding that their sense of guilt is misplaced.
Family Involvement Increases the Likelihood of Successful Recovery
While it’s true that an addict is responsible for their own addiction and the behavior they engage in... During a period of active addiction... close family members who get involved in the recovery process... can be of enormous benefit in helping the addict succeed.
Family members who get involved in treatment learn how to provide essential emotional and social support... for the recovering addict. This not only helps them work towards recovery... it also helps them avoid situations or behavior that might lead to a relapse.
For more information, click here