All known public and private facilities listed as providing substance abuse services were surveyed. Of the 13,749 eligible programs, only 17.7 percent (2,374) reported specialized substance abuse treatment provisions for elders.
Hawaii, Kentucky and Iowa have few such programs (respectively, 11.7 percent, 12 percent and 12.7 percent) despite the relatively high numbers of people over the age of 65 in these states, based on 2001 Census Bureau.
"As the elder population continues to increase in states such as Iowa, Florida and Arizona, the sheer number of elderly with substance abuse problems will increase considerably," said Stephan Arndt, Ph.D., UI professor of psychiatry and study author. Arndt also conducted a 2002 study that revealed up to 15 percent of elder Iowans appear to be at risk for alcoholism and face special problems due to rural locations.
Both studies show an increasingly important need for developing strategies to manage late-life alcoholism.
"Either people are not getting the necessary care or they may be receiving improper care by visiting treatment facilities without elderly-specific programs in mind," said Arndt, who also is director of the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation.
According to Arndt, people over age 65 may have any number of special needs that differ from younger clients. Even when age-appropriate services do exist, a referral may prove an obstacle for people who cannot or do not want to drive a long distance to reach a facility that can help them.