Ethics and Addictions in Older Adults

Finding Balance or Tipping Point

Where Does Self-Determination Fit?

The changing demography of the US population will provide unique opportunities and challenges over the next decades. Ten thousand people each day are turning 65 years of age and will continue for the next eighteen years. This age wave is that of the Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers redefined each stage of life as they have experienced it, modifying fashion design and hair length as well as key societal institutions. They questioned the underlying values and attitudes of society. They influenced education, music, race relations, sex roles, and child rearing. They are about to change what we know about old age as well.

Notions of older adults with an alcohol or drug problem, however, may be difficult to separate from media images of the homeless, disheveled, incoherent old man lying in alley. Ageist stereotypes about the typical substance abusers frequently prevent professionals from screening, identifying and providing treatment. Too often an older adult’s tendency to use alcohol frequently and heavily is dismissed as “the only vice she has left” or “something to help him sleep”.

Historically, the use of illicit drugs has been rare among older adults but this picture is changing dramatically as baby boomers approach their later years bringing with them lifetime habits of drug use.

Additional challenges are being faced as older adults continue to live longer and have care needs provided within informal care settings. Issues of substance abuse by care providers can limit care options for older adults as well as raise ethical and legal issues for professionals.

Dr. Denice Goodrich Liley will be speaking Friday morning, April 3rd, at the Northwest Conference on Social Work in Portland, Oregon. Her presentation examines the problems of substance abuse within the older adult population. It explores what is considered problem alcohol and drug use, who is at greatest risk for abuse, how to assess substance abuse problems and what interventions are available to older adults and their families. Discussion will include formulation of ethical decision-making as well as client self-determination.

The two-day conference at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel will include twenty other workshop options and three plenary speakers: Dr. Angelo McClain, CEO of the National Association of Social Workers; Dr. Laura Nissen, Dean of the Portland State University School of Social Work; and the Honorable Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb, MSW, of Boise, Idaho.

Go to the registration site to see the full listing of workshops, registration information and a special limited contest for registrants:

More about Dr. Liley:
Dr Denice Goodrich Liley, Ph.DDenice Goodrich Liley, Ph.D., LCSW, Associate Professor, Boise State University, School of Social Work and a clinical social worker. She is past Associate Director for the Center for the Study of Aging at Boise State University. Dr. Liley teaches courses on clinical social work practice, aging and end-of-life care as well as has numerous publications in these areas. Dr. Liley has over 20 years of clinical gerontological practice.