Is Your Grandma Abusing Alcohol or Drugs?

What to do if You Think Your Grandmother is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

"I think my grandma has been abusing drugs or alcohol, or maybe both. I can't really be sure just yet, but I've been noticing some strange behaviors. This has me feeling so torn inside. I love my grandmother so much, but I can't stand to see what she's doing to herself."

Addiction and Your Grandma

"I never thought I would be facing this situation. When I was young, my grandmother was always a source of comfort for me. I would go to her when I was upset about something happening at school. She was always there with a listening ear and a plate of cookies to make me feel better. I love her more than I can explain.

"Now that I suspect she's been using drugs or alcohol, I just don't know what to do. I want to help her, but I don't know how. How do you reach out to someone who is an elderly person and talk to them about drug abuse or alcoholism? I'm just so confused about where to go from here.

"More than anything, I need guidance. I need support during this time. Some resources that can point me in the right direction to help my grandma would be so beneficial. I don't want to see my grandmother go down the road of addiction."

Your grandmother is one of the most important people in the world to you. She's someone you've always been able to count on. Maybe she even helped raise you. If your grandma is abusing drugs or alcohol, you know she's facing some struggles of her own.

Too many families find themselves in this situation, and they don't know how to help. It's so important for you to learn as much about drug and alcohol abuse as you can. You also need to know the type of help your grandma really needs right now.

Signs of Drug Abuse or Alcohol Abuse in Your Grandmother to Look for

You may have called her "Granny," "Nana," or "Grandma." Either way, she holds such a special place in your heart. Now that you're suspecting alcohol abuse or drug abuse, you're not sure what to think. You know you need to do something, but what?

It starts with being able to recognize what alcohol abuse and drug abuse is. In the elderly, these can look a little different.

Also, keep in mind that elderly people often abuse substances without realizing that's what they're doing. Your grandma may believe that everything is just as normal as it always is.

Still, you need to know what to look for. Some signs of alcohol abuse or drug abuse in your grandma include:

  • Noticing a decline in her personal hygiene habits
  • Changes in her sleeping patterns
  • A change in her appetite
  • Frequently falling
  • Becoming irritable or angry easily
  • Having problems with concentration
  • Problems with digestion
  • Serious, chronic pain throughout the body

Have you noticed any of these symptoms of drug abuse or alcohol abuse? If you have, then your suspicions might be right. Maybe you haven't, and this has you more concerned than ever. Taking a quiz can be helpful. This quiz will go even deeper into various addiction behaviors and symptoms. It may help you identify if there is a substance abuse problem present that needs to be addressed.

Is My Grandma Addicted or an Alcoholic? Ways You Can Tell

It is possible that your grandmother's substance abuse has progressed into an addiction. There have been many cases of this happening. If it has happened, it's important to know the symptoms of addiction in the elderly. You should be looking for:

  • Bruises on her body that she can't explain
  • Times of intense sadness or depression
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Desires to be alone often
  • Not spending as much time with loved ones
  • Losing interest in activities she once really enjoyed

Of course, the hope is that you caught your grandma's substance abuse problem early. You don't want it to progress into an addiction. However, if you didn't, it's important to know what to look for.

Addicted Grandmother

How to Avoid Enabling Your Nana's Substance Abuse Problem

You love your nana very much. However, sometimes loving a grandmother who is abusing drugs or alcohol can quickly turn into enabling her. Many families enable their elderly loved ones without realizing it. They think they're trying to be helpful. However, they're really allowing and encouraging the substance abuse to continue.

This is certainly not your intention, but you need to be able to recognize enabling behaviors within yourself. These can include:

  • Taking some of the blame on yourself for your nana's substance abuse.
  • Threatening to stop seeing her if she continues to use, but then going back on that promise.
  • Cleaning her home for her because she can't do it herself.
  • Finishing projects for her because she isn't able to do them herself.
  • Offering to purchase alcohol or drugs for her.
  • Using alcohol or drugs with your grandmother to improve your relationship with her.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? If they do, you may be an enabler. You may not have known you were doing anything wrong at all. However, if you really want to help your nana stop using, these and other behaviors have to stop.

Talking to Your Grandma About Her Drug Abuse or Alcohol Abuse

The first thing you should do to help your grandma is have a conversation with her. It is very possible that she doesn't realize that what she's doing is a problem. If that's the case, it may be fairly easy to convince her she needs drug treatment or alcohol treatment.

For example, elderly people are often taking prescription drugs. They can inadvertently become addicted to these drugs if they take them long enough.

She may not realize that she has become addicted or that she is abusing them. It's important for you to tell her this. Learn about the signs of prescription drug addiction so you can explain them to her.

With any type of drug abuse or alcohol abuse, talk to your grandmother about how it is affecting her. Talk to her about how it is affecting you. Be firm and ask her to get help. Let her know that you love her and you're only trying to help her.

Addiction Treatment for the Elderly is Available for Your Grandmother

Chances are pretty good that your grandmother needs substance abuse treatment. The type of treatment she needs will be decided by the facility you choose. It will be determined by the type of addiction she has, and how long she's been using. No matter what type of treatment she receives, the goal will be to address the source of the problem.

Elderly individuals turn to drug abuse or alcohol abuse for a number of reasons. They may suffer from:

  • Boredom or sadness after retirement
  • Grief after the death of a loved one
  • Financial problems
  • Depression after being placed in a nursing home
  • Mental decline or mental illness

If your grandmother suffers from a co-occurring disorder like depression or anxiety, this will be treated. In this way, she'll have a much better chance of recovery.

Should an Intervention be the Next Step if Your Grandma Refuses Drug and Alcohol Rehab?

No one wants to schedule an intervention for their grandmother. However, if your grandma is abusing drugs or alcohol, an intervention might be necessary. This will allow you to bring in other supportive friends and family members to talk with her.

This meeting will be kept a secret from your grandma until it happens. An interventionist will guide you through the process. Afterwards, your grandmother will have the option to go to treatment immediately. Fortunately, most people do agree to get help. Don't be surprised if the meeting itself is very emotional for you. It's OK to get emotional. You love your grandmother so much, and you only want the best for her. Once she sees that, she's much more likely to agree to treatment.

Resources and Support for You as the Family Member of an Addict

You need support for yourself if you have a grandmother abusing drugs or alcohol. Please don't neglect to care for yourself during this time. You can do this in a few different ways.

  • Find a support group. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are some great options for you.
  • Find an online support system. The Tribe Wellness Community is an excellent place to get help and guidance online.
  • Don't neglect your family. Your family needs you during this time. Spend time with them and care for them as well.
  • Take some time for yourself. Go spend an afternoon with a friend, or call your best friend from college to catch up.
  • Don't allow your work to suffer. You need to be sure you're taking care of your own responsibilities.

Alcohol and Drug Treatment and Additional Services at Northpoint Washington

Here at Northpoint Washington, we understand that the elderly have unique needs when it comes to substance abuse. The struggles they deal with are different than those of the general population. If you have a grandmother who is abusing drugs or alcohol, or who may be addicted, you need immediate help.

What you're going through is so difficult. It's a challenge that no one wants to face. Even so, your grandmother is depending on you to assist her, even if she doesn't realize it just yet. We want to provide you with the support and resources you need during this time. You probably never thought that you would have to be so concerned about your grandmother. You never thought of her as someone who would get caught up in alcohol or drug abuse. Now that you're here, you need specific guidance so you know what to do.

We want to provide you with that guidance. We can help you with intervention services if you need them. We can also talk with you in greater detail about how drug and alcohol rehab can help your grandmother.

Is your grandmother abusing drugs or alcohol? Are you searching for answers to help you through this time? Please contact us right away.


  • (2017). Al-Anon Family Groups. Retrieved from:
  • (2017). Nar-Anon Family Groups. Retrieved from:
  • (2017). The Tribe Wellness Community. Retrieved from: