Elderly Parents In Addiction Recovery Need  Us.

Senior Couple Exchanging Christmas Gifts At Home

Elderly Parents In Addiction Recovery Need  Us.

By Teresa Greenhill at teresa@mentalhealthforseniors.com

With the arrival of the holidays we think nostalgic, sentimental thoughts about family and friends.  Sometimes those relationships aren’t as healthy as we would like them to be.  If you have a parent who struggles with addiction your relationship can be especially complicated.  Here is some great advice for reconnecting during the holiday season.

Find positive energy.  The first step toward reconnecting with your parent is releasing your own negativity.  Experts cited by Huffington Post explain that “we mask over pain we carry from unreconciled relationships that have grown as cold as the lump of coal in an unfortunate child’s Christmas stocking.”  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Make a list of things you are thankful for
  • Identify something that makes you feel good and savor it daily, such as a place in nature or favorite music
  • Take a brisk walk every day
  • Find a healing ritual that gives you perspective, like reciting a prayer or poem every morning

The scope of senior addiction.  If you have a senior parent with an addiction problem, you are not alone.  According to some experts, as Baby Boomers reach retirement age there is a tremendous number of seniors abusing substances.  What’s more, substances are more dangerous to the elderly.  Aging causes the body to be more susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol.

How does this happen?  The experts at FamilyDoctor explain that many older adults become addicted to medications by accident.  Seniors are commonly prescribed two classes of drugs that are highly addictive, opioids and benzodiazepines.  The symptoms that usually give away a drug problem are easily missed in elderly patients since they can mimic conditions associated with aging, such as memory loss and confusion.

Moving forward.  With proper steps you can reconnect with your parent in a healthy way.  The experts at Psych Central have some excellent advice.

  • The first element of rebuilding is trust.  Your parent must commit to not using drugs or alcohol, and also changing related behavior.
  • The second element is time.  There is no limit on how long it can take, but recognize it will take time.
  • You will have to commit to forgiving your parent.  Resentment inhibits your ability to have peace in the relationship.  You need to let go of bitter feelings in order to rebuild.

When your history is toxic.  If your relationship is particularly strained you may find reconnecting very distressing.  Maybe your parent’s addiction is deeply rooted and started long ago, or you grew up in a very dysfunctional family.  If you and your parent currently maintain a toxic, messy relationship, reaching out may sound impossible.  Here is advice from experts for steps toward healing.

  • Set boundaries. Recognize that you are not responsible for the damaging actions of your parent.  Also know that your parent might never be an emotionally healthy person, and be okay with that.  Remember their faults are theirs, not something you have caused.
  • Embrace where you are. Give yourself permission to be okay with your current emotional state.  Punishing yourself for not being something else doesn’t get you anywhere.
  • Be self-aware. Do an honest inventory of your own actions to discover how you are contributing to the dysfunction in the relationship.
  • Seek help. Some professionals suggest getting help from a therapist or counselor in your journey.  If you find you are hitting a bump and don’t know how to navigate, talking with a professional can help you maneuver through the emotional obstacles.

Making a holiday connection.  Reconnecting with your parent can be difficult, especially if addiction is involved.  Find positive energy to adjust your perspective.  Know that you are not the only one dealing with a senior parent in this situation.  Understand how it could happen and begin moving forward.  If your history is particularly toxic, take steps toward healing and seek help if you need it.  Finding a healthy connection with your parent is possible this holiday season.

For support during your holiday season, consider one of Clinical Care Consultants’ Psychotherapists.

3325 Arlington Heights Rd., Ste 400B
Arlington Heights, IL 60004

1642 W Colonial Parkway, Ste 100
Inverness, IL 60067


(847) 749-0514

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