Area Office on Aging, local leaders discuss opioid addiction, misuse in elderly population

Area Office on Aging, local leaders discuss opioid addiction, misuse in elderly population

MAUMEE, OH (WTOL) - The belief that older people are "always in pain" is one of the issues posing a major problem in fighting the opioid epidemic of the aging population, local experts have said.

The older population is drastically affected by the opioid epidemic, either directly or indirectly.

The Area Office on Aging held a meeting Monday with local experts and legislators to figure out how to fix this problem.

Nancy Orel, one of the lead researchers on this from Bowling Green State University, says our culture seems to believe that if you're old, you're always in pain.

Orel says chronic pain is a real issue, but there are alternatives to prescribing opiates for the pain.

She also says we often associate what could be the side affects of opioid misuse, such as drowsiness, poor cognitive response and issues driving, to someone just being older.

The numbers that stick out the most from 2017 show that the highest percentage of opioid overdoses and deaths hit folks who are 45 and older, both in Ohio and nationwide.

"Because Ohio is the second in the nation those numbers are going to kind of follow in this area, but we are over 42% of those individuals who overdose in northwest Ohio over the age of 45," Orel said.

Dr. Orel says getting alternative treatments covered by insurance is a big initiative, along with education for caregivers on the signs of addition and misuse.

The growing trend of opioid addiction and overdose deaths has health officials and legislators working double-time to stop this trend.

"Like most people I tend to associate drug addiction with a younger population, Melinda Cree, Executive Director of Dental Center of NW Ohio. "But I can see how older people when they're spending a lot of time at home and have a lot of ailments that it would be very easy to cross that line and become addicted."

Experts told community advocates at the Area Office on Aging breakfast that we often don't hear about overdose deaths in older people because families either didn't know about the addiction or because of the stigma attached to opioid addiction.

"There's numerous programs that are available for older adults on alternatives to manage chronic pain," Orel said. "The key is, is how will these be paid for."

And that is a question, lawmakers and researchers don't have an answer to yet. What can you do to help protect your aging loved ones?

Experts say you should be involved in their caregiving.

Meaning go to doctors appointments with them, make sure you ask the doctor why they're prescribing the medications that they're prescribing and if there could be any interactions with other medications.

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