TAMPA, Fla., March 26, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — For parents, having «the talk» with their kids about substance abuse comes with the territory. However, amid a growing national epidemic of substance abuse among seniors, a new national survey reveals that adults are now more concerned about the risks of some forms of substance abuse by their parents than by their kids; and the majority admit to feeling ill-informed and ill-equipped to have «the talk» with their aging parents about signs, symptoms and support in dealing with abuse.

 (PRNewsfoto/WellCare Health Plans, Inc.)

According to the new survey «The Tough Talk: Aging Parents and Substance Abuse,» commissioned by WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE:WCG), slightly more than one-half (51 percent) of all adults polled are now more concerned about the risks of prescription drug abuse among their aging parents than their children; and nearly two-thirds of those polled feel less equipped to help their parents with problems of abuse than they are to help their kids. To qualify to participate in the survey, adults had to have a child 13 years or older, as well as a living parent, step-parent or parent in-law.

The survey reports that, for those living under the same roof as their parents, the concerns are even more pronounced. Specifically, among adults whose aging parents live in the same home as they do, they are substantially more concerned with alcohol abuse in their parents than in their kids (40 percent vs. 26 percent).

«The number of older Americans with substance use disorder is expected to rise from 2.8 million between 2002 and 2006 to 5.7 million by 2020, a situation for which adult children clearly are not prepared or well-equipped to handle,» said Michael Polen, executive vice president, Medicare and operations, WellCare. «While the sandwich generation understandably tends to focus on speaking with their teen children about the risks of substance abuse, it’s apparent that it’s equally important to have these conversations with parents as well.»

Despite their concerns, those polled admit they’re largely in the dark about the risks their parents face. More than one-half of adults reported they know nothing or only a little about which prescription drugs their parents take or how long they’ve been taking them. More than one-third of adults polled admitted they know nothing or only a little about the amount of alcohol their parents consume.

Perhaps most concerning, a full 75 percent of adults queried revealed that they may not even recognize signs of substance abuse if it is happening, admitting they could very well mistake those signs for normal behaviors of aging.

The survey finds that even if they suspect substance abuse, nearly three-in-ten of those polled would not be comfortable discussing it with their parents for a number of reasons. Nearly one-in-four fear their parents would get angry at them. Some may be reluctant given prior experiences: one-in-five who live with their parents say that similar talks they have had in the past did not go well. Other reasons for not wanting to raise the subject include: not knowing how to start the conversation (20 percent); not feeling like they’re in a position to tell their parents they have a problem (18 percent); and believing that their parent’s doctor will address the situation if need be (24 percent).

«There are numerous factors that can lead seniors down a path to substance abuse or misuse, ranging from loneliness to availability of multiple prescription drugs to depression. Oftentimes, those who are closest may in fact be in the dark about the signs, which is why it’s important to check in, check up and be informed about the symptoms of abuse,» said Kevin Middleton, Psy.D., vice president, behavioral health programs, WellCare.

For more information, please visit WellCare’s blog.

Survey Methodology
The online survey was conducted by Kelton Global on behalf of WellCare in February 2018 among a nationally representative sample of 1,055 Americans ages 30-55 who have a child 13 years or older and a living parent/in-law, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. The company served approximately 4.4 million members nationwide as of Dec. 31, 2017. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company’s website at www.wellcare.com.

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SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.