« 不況と総選挙―政治のリセットを急げ | トップページ | 代表質問 対決だけでなく協調も必要だ »

2009年1月 6日 (火)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 5(IHT/Asahi: January 6,2009)

EDITORIAL: Elderly alcoholics


The number of elderly alcoholics is on the rise. Here is one example: a man, 68 years old, who lives with his wife in Osaka Prefecture. Within five years of his elderly parents passing away, he found himself in hospital being treated for alcohol addiction.


He had worked for a company for many years and retired at the usual age. His parents had lived with his family, and he had seen them through their final days. His two children were grown. He was left with not much to do. Out of boredom, he started to drink, even during the daytime.


In no time at all, he was drinking more and more. Soon he was passing out in front of railway stations or in shopping streets. His wife consulted their family doctor, and the diagnosis was alcoholism.


He entered a rehab program in hospital, and thought he had beaten his addiction. But after leaving the hospital, he thought, "Just a little can't hurt," and reached for the bottle again. Within a month, he was back to square one. He returned again to rehab and now attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly.


According to a survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, around 800,000 people are being treated for alcohol addiction nationwide. The situation is especially serious among people in their 70s.


An estimated 3 percent of the population in their 70s are alcoholic, the highest rate among all the age groups. More elderly people are joining the All Nippon Abstinence Association for alcoholics. In fiscal 2001, only 41 percent of its members were 60 or older, but by fiscal 2007, that rate had risen to 51 percent.


Recently, addictions have worsened rapidly in the immediate years after retirement.


"People who worked hard all their lives find it difficult to rebuild their lives after retirement and unconsciously turn to drink," says Ryuzo Wake, honorary director of Shinseikai Hospital in Izumi, Osaka Prefecture. Wake has spent many years treating alcoholic patients.


The rise in number of rehab patients is overtaxing alcoholism treatment facilities and home nursing care services.


Drinking curbs a patient's appetite, and so they refuse to eat meals prepared by their care workers. Alcoholism thus leads to secondary health problems such as malnutrition, memory loss and depression. There is also a higher risk of falling and breaking bones.


Some alcoholic patients try to force their home care workers to buy alcohol for them. According to a survey on alcohol-related problems conducted by a Kansai academic society on about 500 care managers and home-care workers, 80 percent of respondents had clients with drinking problems and 30 percent said that they found it difficult to provide care.


Alcoholism is a disease in which a person cannot control their alcohol intake. It should not be dismissed as merely someone "enjoying a drink" or being a "big boozer." If the patient receives proper treatment and quits drinking, recovery is certainly possible. The elderly, especially, are easier to treat than other age groups.


Home caregivers who have daily contact with their patients need to be trained to better understand alcohol addiction.


What is needed is local networks that can enhance cooperation among care workers, town doctors, public health centers, hospitals specializing in the treatment of alcoholism and others.


The remaining days of elderly citizens are precious ones. We hope that as many elderly patients as possible can be helped and supported so they can overcome their addiction and live out their last days in fulfillment.



« 不況と総選挙―政治のリセットを急げ | トップページ | 代表質問 対決だけでなく協調も必要だ »





« 不況と総選挙―政治のリセットを急げ | トップページ | 代表質問 対決だけでなく協調も必要だ »