There are an ever-increasing number of seniors entering methadone maintenance treatment for the same reasons other younger adults do. They may have more vulnerability regarding safety in using methadone or pain management issues, but, for many, it may be their last chance of gaining satisfaction and better health in their lives.
Increase in Senior Needs for Methadone Maintenance Treatment
The population of seniors receiving opioid painkillers is growing as are the number of prescriptions that they take daily. These medications play an active role in deteriorating their physical and mental health, even more so than a younger adult and more so than most people realize.
Seniors may have more difficulties dealing with loneliness, the loss of a spouse, lack feelings of self-worth if retired or unemployed, and become depressed due to their aging or health concerns. Turning to substance abuse for these individuals is not hard to imagine.
However, there is a tendency, to “chalk it up” to the reasons that seniors tend to be more susceptible to pain and therefore, need more potent painkillers, have the right character not to abuse them, know when to stop using them when negative consequences occur, and; are able to do so without help.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment Assessments
Eligibility for methadone maintenance treatment requires an opioid dependency for more than a year, ability to take methadone safely, and an ability and willingness to comply with program rules such as daily dosing and monitoring.
Every potential candidate for methadone maintenance treatment is evaluated to determine the appropriate levels of care and placement such as inpatient or outpatient care setting during the methadone induction phase, and special services they may need to participate successfully in the program. During this screening, the intake counselor considers many different factors such as:
- Withdrawal potentials
- Biomedical conditions and complications including co-existing physical illnesses, communicable diseases or infections, and methadone use safety
- Emotional or behavioral conditions and complications such as depression, poly-substance abuse or other co-existing mental health issues or cognitive difficulties that need to be addressed
- Willingness to change
- Relapse potential
- Recovery environment including spousal or family support or increased vulnerabilities to abuse, neglect, or homelessness
Methadone Maintenance Treatment Planning For Seniors
Like anyone else, dependence on opioids can become a daily cycle of repeat intoxication and withdrawals with no hope in sight for seniors. According to the SAMHSA, “MAT treatment planners should consider the stressors common to the aging patient”, but, also focus on other areas such as:
- Increased risk of medication interactions when the patient is prescribed multiple medications.
- Differentiating between co-occurring disorders and those associated with aging
- Differentiating between depression and dementia
- Screening for and treating physical or sexual abuse
- Developing referral sources that meet patient needs such as with nursing homes
- Providing psychosocial treatment for age-related stressors and common medical conditions affected by aging process
- Adjusting medication dosing for their slower metabolism rates