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Alcoholism and Falls in Older Adults

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
3 minute readLast updated April 20, 2023

As a person ages, balance and posture become extremely important. Over time, the body can begin to lose muscle and bone mass which can lead to poor muscle balance. Proper muscle balance is important for the body. If a muscle is not evenly distributed or becomes unbalanced, it can lead to joint issues or possibly a painful injury. In an aging adult, muscle balance can help stability, posture, and can even prevent falls. Alcohol, however, can reduce balance and stability, leading to more potential fall risks.

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About 36 million falls occur each year in the senior population. Falling, especially if the elder is over the age of 75, is extremely dangerous, and the chances of falling increase with age. If an elderly adult is consuming large volumes of alcohol or becoming intoxicated, their risk of falling at home significantly increases.
Alcohol slows down basic motor skills, reaction times, and overall stability. According to a study by the Department of Clinical Sciences at Lund University, “stability declined much faster from alcohol intoxication between 0.06% and 0.10%. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) compared with between 0.0% and 0.6% BAC.”

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When an elderly adult becomes intoxicated, their balance and posture are directly affected. Since many elders live alone this could be alarming to a caregiver or loved one who can’t visit them daily. If an elder falls and can’t reach the phone, they could potentially lay on the floor for hours. If they are bleeding or unconscious, the situation could become more critical. While many elderly adults typically consume less alcohol than younger people, there are many seniors that have had alcohol related problems for 20, 30, and 40 plus years.
Studies show that drinking problems in nursing homes impacts around 49% of residents, and around six to 11% of elder adults admitted to hospitals also display signs of alcoholism.

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What seniors can do to prevent falls

An elder can take many preventative steps to avoiding a fall such as increasing stability through balancing and strengthening exercises, attending physical therapy weekly, maintaining a healthy weight, and by moderating or reducing alcohol intake. An elderly adult may feel like their alcohol use is too far gone to be fixed, but anyone at any age can change their life. If an elder feels lost or as if they have no purpose, it’s very important to reassure them that they can have goals, desires, and can feel a sense of happiness at any stage of life.
Encourage an elderly adult to find new habits and constrictive behaviors. This could possibly be achieved through writing, painting, joining a club, or volunteering. Simply persuade them to find what gives them joy and happiness and they may start feeling a sense of relief that alcohol can only provide them with temporarily. If you know an elder with an alcohol problem, there are alternatives to alcohol treatment programs that can provide them with hope and inspiration.


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OurParents Staff

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