Gambling in the United States has become a preferred pastime. Here in Florida, gambling opportunities have increased, as has the senior population, which has been growing more rapidly than any other age group. For most Florida seniors, as is true for most Americans, gambling is a form of entertainment that does not present any difficulty in their lives. However, among older adults, the consequences of a gambling disorder are often more debilitating. Therefore, before gambling, it is important to know the risks involved and the warning signs of problem gambling.
While gambling is a recreational activity that does not present harm to the majority who participate, for those experiencing difficulties, gambling is even riskier with increasing age. A gambling disorder is often referred to as the “hidden addiction” because inflicted persons display no visual symptoms, as is typically associated with substance abuse. Also, because problem gamblers have no saturation point and cannot be assessed through traditional means, such as a blood test, the disease progresses unnoticed, even to those closest to the gambler.
Many seniors gamble as a means of escaping everyday problems, feelings of loneliness, sadness, boredom, as well as a lack of alternative activities. They are among one of the fastest-growing groups of gamblers because they are more likely to face challenges in response to coping with major life changes or losses. The onset of social isolation resulting from retirement and family members moving away, the increased awareness of physical limitations, and the grief that accompanies the death of a loved one are among a series of overwhelming losses and difficult life transitions that make seniors especially vulnerable. Similarly, cognitive impairments are another consideration, as many elders struggle with their ability to make sound decisions. In fact, while medical experts estimate that 15% of all Americans over age 70 are suffering from some degree of dementia, in many cases it is undiagnosed. Complicating matters further is that in some cases, while rare, individuals with Parkinson’s disease, Restless Leg Syndrome, and other neurological and movement disorders have developed gambling problems as a side effect of
their prescribed medications.
It is essential for health care professionals and others to know that a gambling disorder is linked to a range of serious health conditions, such as heart disease, migraines, depression, insomnia, intestinal problems, obesity, high blood pressure, and a series of other medical and stress-related conditions. It is also true that compulsive gamblers often report that the adrenaline high they experience while gambling enables them to temporarily detach and forget their emotional and physical problems, including chronic pain. These are important points, because depression and chronic pain are routinely reported by this population, yet many are reluctant to visit a therapist or a medical doctor for help with their gambling problem due to feelings of shame and social stigma.
The FCCG has developed a variety of senior specific programs and resources offering a comprehensive approach for diverse elder service providers in recognizing the signs of a gambling problem in the population served. FCCG senior specific programs address common situations that seniors encounter, identify age appropriate solutions, and offer viable approaches to prevention, assessment, intervention, treatment, and outreach efforts. Here are some examples of programs and materials designed for senior service providers and available through the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine:
A Chance for Change Guide for Senior Health and Service Professionals
The FCCG developed a guided initiative for medical school faculty, nursing institutions, clinical geriatric environments, addiction and mental health professionals, adult day cares, assisted living and retirement facilities, elder caregiver and companion companies, home health care agencies, veteran organizations, and other senior service entities, about the adverse effects of gambling on older adults and strategies for aiding this population. This Program offers a comprehensive approach for diverse elder service providers and addresses common situations that seniors encounter, identifies age appropriate solutions, and offers viable approaches to prevention, assessment, intervention, treatment, and outreach. In addition, it offers recreational options, resource referrals and Program related materials.
Senior Service Provider Online Continuing Education Unit Module “A Chance for Change”
This training module offers a comprehensive approach for elder service providers to use to address common situations that seniors encounter. It offers viable approaches to prevention, assessment, intervention, treatment, and outreach, as well as recreational options, resource referrals, and population specific programs. To obtain Continuing Education Credit (CEU) or Continuing Medical Education Credit (CME), an active Florida LMHC, LMFT, LCSW, or medical healthcare provider license number is required. Certificates are provided, and all CEU’s or CME’s are posted to the appropriate accreditation body during the first week of the month following completion. This module is currently not accepting new enrollments. Subscribe to FCCG emails for updates about this and other continuing education courses.
Angels in Disguise – Senior Caregiver Program
The 2008 Florida Statute, Title XLVI Chapter 849.04 Permitting minors and persons under guardianship to gamble clearly holds persons criminally liable of a felony of the third degree, those who own or keep gambling devices for the purpose of betting, and willfully and knowingly allow any person who is mentally incompetent or under guardianship to play at such a game or to bet on such a game of chance or whoever aids or abets or otherwise encourages such playing or betting of any money or other valuable thing upon the result of such a game of chance by any person who is mentally incompetent or under guardianship. The statute defines someone as ‘mentally incompetent’ if due to mental illness, mental retardation, senility, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, or other mental capacity is incapable of managing his or her property or caring for him or herself or both. The FCCG’s caregiver program, Angels in Disguise, provides senior caregivers and caregiver organizations with the resources necessary to address problem gambling in both their client and employee populations and to invoke policy for dealing with this issue. Program materials include warning signs of a gambling problem in both client and employee populations, resources for problem gambling policy, the Angels in Disguise DVD, and Seniors and Gambling Caretaker Brochure. “Seniors and Gambling – Important Information for the Caretaker” brochure provides basic information regarding seniors who gamble, why they may gamble, and impacts when gambling is a problem. It also provides important “Do’s and Don’ts” for the individual caretaker or caregiving organization. This brochure contains important information for anyone working or acting in the capacity of caretaking where gambling is a part of the senior’s activities.
Playing it Safe Senior Toolkit
The Playing it Safe Senior Toolkit is an educational and instructional toolkit that enables senior service providers to present the topic of gambling among older adults effectively and creatively. While there are many options and approaches one can use, the materials are designed to provide high flexibility to accommodate presentation timelines and diverse audiences. The purpose of the Playing it Safe toolkit is to provide all of the necessary background that elder service providers need to increase awareness among older adults. It includes an instructor’s guide; a Dire Stakes game, modeled after the popular televised Jeopardy game; a CD PowerPoint program and handout; videos of recovering persons, including field experts; a video docudrama; fact sheets, posters, brochures, “Playing it Safe” money with tips on keeping gambling recreational; collateral items; and more.
Senior Stories – General Awareness Audio CD
This program provides personal stories by older adults, information about gambling addiction, and helpful and free resources (audio only).
Are you a senior service provider? To request any of these prevention programs and learn more about resources for older adults, contact the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine today.