Dear Grandparenting: I am contacting you because my mother (grandmother of my two children) reads your column. She might listen to you. I am getting nowhere with her.
Mom was a terrific grandmother until Dad died five years ago but never had a good sense about money. She took out a home equity loan and frittered it away on expensive things she didn’t need. She took trips and vacations with other widows, trying to find new friends.
Those other ladies must have been heavy drinkers because Mom started getting into the sauce well before dinner. She wound up having to sell the house “that held all those wonderful memories.”
My two kids have noticed the change. I can tell by how they look at her, like she is damaged goods or something. When I bring up drinking, Mom tells me she’s just tired and drinks no more than before Dad died. What’s my best move now? Sandra Mercer, Charlotte, NC
Dear Sandra: Many automatically assume grandchildren are the problem when talk turns to substance abuse issues, but a growing body of evidence points to a worrisome rise in drinking and drugging behavior among grandparents.
While alcohol consumption is on the rise across the board according to federal government data, adults over age 65 have the biggest increase in problem drinking of any age group. Abuse of both illicit and/or prescription drugs like opioids, cocaine and marijuana is also on the uptick.
Reasons for substance abuse differ, but risk factors typically include grief, isolation, money problems and depression. Trouble starts when grandparents become bored or lose their purpose, or self-medicate after the death of a spouse. And many will begin to metabolize substances differently with age—one glass of wine can have the impact of several.
Having taking care of themselves and others for decades, grandparents can be quick to deny they have lost control. Diagnosis can be difficult—warning signs of chemical dependency like disorientation or memory loss are a normal part of the aging process.
A trusted professional like her physician may be best equipped to get your mother’s attention without unduly alarming her. Schedule an appointment and ask to sit in.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Louis Hawkins from Bakersfield, CA sent along this remark:
“Who needs plastic surgery? Grandkids keep me young.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.