Though it can be tough but ultimately satisfying to assist a family member or a loved one going through mental or physical changes as they age, areas of concern sometimes come up that weren’t expected or anticipated, such as discovering they have a gambling problem. The staff at Accredited Home Care is willing to provide advice and encouragement to help people learn more about this particular condition before it can be devastating financially.
The good news is that you’re not alone in trying to help people with gambling problems.
Casinos, card rooms or other popular places to gamble have acknowledged wanting to take more responsibility in keeping certain people away from risky games of chance, although many are also the ones who make gambling look fun and appealing.
The state of California also has several problem gambling initiatives in progress, designed to educate community members about the temptations of gambling, and provide assistance for people who need help and their family members. There are similar national efforts in place, all with the goal of offering resources.
But seniors are definitely considered at high risk for gambling addiction, according to The California Council on Problem Gambling, even if they haven’t had these problems earlier in life. Gambling is something that can start out as innocent and fun, but can quickly turn into a problem. In some cases, a senior may try to keep the problem secret or try to “make up losses,” which can often lead to further damage.
This month is an ideal time to learn and do more: the National Council on Problem Gambling has declared March to be Problem Gambling Awareness Month, which is designed to raise awareness of the problems, prevention methods, treatment and recovery services.
What’s the harm?
To many seniors, a trip to a nearby casino can be a wonderful social outing especially with friends. Many retirees have flexible schedules that allow them to visit during the day and avoid the busier evening crowds. They may often find deals on all sorts of fine food. The staff is usually friendly and attentive as well, and it’s safe and secure. Many casinos also are happy to offer bus service to people in surrounding communities, making a visit even more appealing for someone who doesn’t want to drive or bother someone to ask for a ride. Casinos also generally like senior customers and find them polite and regular, steady customers.
Retirees also may have a little more disposable income, especially if there are some incentives available for regular visitors. An occasional win also can provide even more motivation to keep a streak going.
All of this is fine except when things change. Losing a little on a rare visit isn’t bad, but prolonged losses can add up especially if they start to outpace wins.
How things can change
Mental changes can cause people to lose control of their gambling, from brain tumors to dementia. These can cause people to spend recklessly and lose track of how much they’re winning or losing. It could encourage people to place bigger riskier bets, or even steal to sustain their addiction.
The growing number of casinos is one factor. Decades ago, few casinos were in remote areas, but now there are hundreds around the country making them easier to visit and not take too much time to get there and back.
The California Council on Problem Gambling said a big factor is loneliness. By 2020, it estimates that 15 million Americans over 65 are living alone, which makes a trip to the casino even more appealing for social value and entertainment value, along with simply filling time through an otherwise dull day.
“Grief gambling”” is also another factor in why some people tend to gamble compulsively. Like any addiction, the activity can help someone feel slightly better who is dealing with major changes or loss of a loved one.
They also might not want to burden other people as well, and may enjoy doing their own activities and making their own decisions on spending their own money.
Spotting the addiction
Noticing if a loved one has a problem can be tricky, especially if they don’t realize it themselves and think it’s simply a fun, legal outlet. But problem gambling officials have come up with some clues:
- Withdrawing from regular activities and friends due to gambling
- Continual conversation about gaming, especially future wins.
- Neglecting health, even food
- More significant losses
- More suggestions to visit the casino vs. other attractions
- Unusual requests to borrow money
- Disappearance of valuables, which could be sold or pawned
- Restlessness and anxiety when not gaming
- Lying, fear or anxiety when discussing gamblingHow to get help
Families or caregivers in the Northridge area wanting to seek help for gambling addictions can find a variety of resources, everything from taking control of someone’s finances and giving them an allowance to sending them to a rehabilitation program. There are also Gambling Anonymous meetings in every community.
The National Problem Gambling Hotline is one starting place, at 800-522-4700 or the California Council on Problem Gambling at 800-GAMBLER or online at https://www.ncpgambling.org/state/california/.
Accredited Home Care can also help steer families and caregivers in the right direction to get assistance before it’s too late.