September is Older Virginians’ Mental Health Month; Agency Commissioners Seek to Raise Awareness, Increase Treatment and Services for Older Adults
Studies have shown the number of older adults in Virginia is growing rapidly, and the need for mental health and substance abuse services for this population is expected to double over the next 25 years.
Virginia ABC has been a leader in alcohol education and prevention among older adults, and is committed to continuing its partnership with the Alcohol and Aging Awareness Group (AAAG).
“We recognize the prevalence of mental illness and substance misuse among older adults, the critical need for services for these older people and the importance of raising public awareness about this rapidly growing health challenge. Virginia ABC founded the Alcohol and Aging Awareness Group in 2007, and is committed to supporting its continued efforts to provide resources, education and training on the use of alcohol and medications as adults age.”
--J. Neal Insley, Chairman,
Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
“Mental disorders like anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment and mood disorders pose risk to the health and well being of older adults and are not a normal part of aging. Often the stigma associated with mental disorders prevents older adults and their caregivers from talking about their symptoms and seeking support. Obtaining treatment in a timely manner would enhance the life of older adults living with mental health challenges.”
--James W. Stewart, III, Commissioner,
Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
“We are seeing more and more instances where aging, prescribed medications and alcohol provide a bad mix. By working with ABC, we are able to educate older Virginians, their family members, the medical community, and the general public about alcohol and medication interactions that can be so dangerous.”
--Jim Rothrock, Commissioner,
Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services
Many of the symptoms of aging and depression mirror the signs of alcohol misuse, requiring a more thorough look at the cause. Mood swings, anxiety, neglect of personal hygiene, change in sleep patterns and eating habits, confusion or forgetfulness, and isolation from family and friends are all indications of alcohol misuse and/or mental disorders. Alcohol misuse may also be flagged by frequent and unexplained injuries, slurred speech, unsteady gait, the smell of alcohol on the breath, and more.
If you are the friend, spouse or caregiver of an older adult who is suffering from a mental disorder or alcohol or substance misuse, be supportive, direct and honest with the individual and consider guiding them to their primary care physician or a geriatrician who specializes in mental health and addictions. You may also seek assistance at one or more of the following:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Alcoholism counselors, social workers, psychologists and clergy
- Alcoholism treatment centers
- An area agency on aging.
- Call 2-1-1 Virginia.
- Senior Navigator at www.seniornavigator.org
The Alcohol and Aging Awareness Group (AAAG) is a statewide coalition founded in 2007 to address the growing epidemic of alcohol misuse among older adults. Since its creation, the AAAG has supplied numerous educational resources, expert speakers and professional trainings on the topic for older adults and their service providers. It has also been the proud recipient of state and national level awards, including the 2008 Recognition Award for Innovative Prevention Projects from The Virginia Department of Health, and the 2008 Best Practices Award from the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (NCSLA).
For more information, contact ABC Education at (804) 213-4593 or email@example.com.