Alcoholism has been defined by the online dictionary as, “an addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor or the compulsive behaviour that results from alcoholic dependency.” Over time we see more and more people taking to the bottle but unfortunately, not so many get freed from alcoholism. This essay examines a documentary that looks at the plight of the elderly alcoholic and what can be done for them.
Working Title – The Elderly Alcoholic
The aim of this documentary is to show the correlation of life events and alcoholism in the elderly. Almost everyone in life has been affected either directly or indirectly by alcoholism. Sometimes we might be the recipients of the actions of alcoholics and other times we may have loved ones who are alcoholics. This proposal will shine light on elderly alcoholics, its causes, dependence and cures.
Everybody at one time or the other has come in contact with an alcoholic. It could be the roommate that sleeps in your bed whenever he gets drunk, or the girl at the party that speaks too loud. At other times it could be something much worse. Watching a loved one sink into despair and pain because they can’t function otherwise. The severity of alcoholism and its effects is the reason behind my motivation to create this documentary.
Dolly Quetel is a 65 year old woman who lives alone. She has been living on her own for the past 15 years when she separated from her husband and she has no children. She eventually started drinking to fill up the loneliness in her life. With time, the bottle beside her bed became a constant fixture. “It makes me feel much better you see”, she always says. Her relatives are out of town and she gets the occasional call from her nephews. The bottle has become the closest she has to a friend. Being retired also means that she depends solely on her Social Security check for sustenance.
Doctor Michael L. Freedman of the New York University Medical Centre has stated that the elderly mainly see drink as some sort of self medication for loneliness and depression. It is also easy to get a hold of unlike other form of prescription that cannot be got over the counter. Although alcohol does provide an initial form of relief – it eventually makes you more depressed.
Elderly Alcoholic – Ms. Dolly Quetel who is a retired aging woman that finds herself turning to alcohol over and over. She lives in squalor as she spends the majority of her Social Security check on drinking. Her place of abode also affects her health in other ways as she is more prone to fall ill due to her lack of hygiene.
The Doctor - Doctor Michael L. Freedman who has seen more than his fair share of elderly alcoholics and has through interacting with them found the major cause of their alcoholism to be loneliness. He offers help but cannot offer more than the patients are willing to receive.
The Loved One – The person who is longing to get back to the time Ms. Quetel had purpose in her life.
The biggest conflict is the fact that even when help is offered, the recipients do not always accept it. Statistics paint a grim picture of elderly alcoholics. It has been claimed that in the United States alone between a million and two million people over the age of 65 are alcoholics. More than half of the elderly who check in for acute medical ails are active alcoholics. Unfortunately for most of them, because of the similarity between their symptoms and that resulting from old age they are usually wrongly diagnosed and end up being treated for the wrong reasons.
There is also the wrong notion that the ‘elderly have already outlived their usefulness’ and as such they may be left alone to live the kind of lives they choose. This shouldn’t be because alcoholism affects more than the alcoholic. The families and loved ones of the elderly alcoholic are deprived of enjoying a vibrant and meaningful life with their loved ones. Treatment and counselling is usually needed for everyone involved.
Because everyone at one point or the other has been affected by alcoholism either actively or passively, the audience base for this documentary is diverse and varied. However the expected audience class would be carers and family members. Carers need to understand that although the elderly alcoholics need to be treated for alcoholism, what must have possibly drawn them to the bottle in the first place may have been loneliness. They should be well equipped to deal with the issues resulting from loneliness. Another class of my audience should be the family of the alcoholic. Unlike the carer who is there to do a job, the family also need to heal themselves of the aches and problems that may have come as a result. They should be willing to talk about their needs and feelings and seek counselling should the need arise. The family needs to understand tough love and to realise that that may be the only way to help their loved ones.
In the elderly, the effects of alcoholism are more severe. As people grow older their body loses its ability to store water therefore there is less water to dilute the alcohol in their body. This makes them more prone to intoxication. Alcohol makes it hard for doctors to detect and treat some illnesses. For instance the change it creates in the blood cells makes it hard for doctors to diagnose a dull heart that might be a warning sign of heart disease. With a documentary shedding light on these issues and cases, information and awareness would be available to help and save the elderly and ensure they live a meaningful last days.
This documentary will conclude with the audiences understanding that there are many ways to reach out to elderly alcoholics. It will also state in clear terms the many symptoms of alcoholism in the elderly. This will enable people closer to these alcoholics correctly diagnose the problem and not take it to be something else. If any of these can be accomplished then the reasoning behind this documentary would have been met.
Ross, S., n.d. Alcohol Use Disorders in the Elderly. Psychiatry Weekly. (online) Available at: http://www.psychweekly.com/aspx/article/ArticleDetail.aspx?articleid=19 (Accessed 08 October 2012)