What to Do When Your Parent or Grandparent Gambles Too Much

Maybe your aging mom has started going on weekend casino binges. Perhaps your grandpa’s so wrapped up in slot machine apps that he now neglects his home or personal hygiene. You sense—or know—there’s a problem, but what do you do next?

Educate yourself.

Compulsive gambling isn’t about lacking willpower or making bad decisions. It’s a diagnosable condition with roots in the brain’s biology. What’s more, some people may be more vulnerable to it than others. Risk factors include starting to gamble at an early age and having a family history of addiction. There’s an additional risk factor for some seniors as well: certain drugs commonly used to treat conditions like Parkinson’s disease can negatively affect impulse control, raising the risk for, among other things, gambling addiction.

Understand that gambling addiction is treatable at any age.

Don’t push aside your concerns because you think your loved one is too old or too set in her ways to change. Professional therapists who are trained to work with gambling-addicted people will offer the tools and resources your parent or grandparent needs to start down the path to recovery.

Don’t preach.

Accusations and heated arguments won’t help your senior loved one realize they may need treatment for gambling addiction. Express your concern using “I” statements. For instance, you might say “I’m worried you won’t have money to pay for your heart medication because of the gambling.”

Seek help sooner rather than later.

Problem gambling is so much more than a money problem, yet there’s no question that money is crucial for supplying necessities like food, shelter, and medication. Younger problem gamblers in recovery may have decades to rebuild their financial security before retirement; in contrast, a senior may already be retired and unable to rebuild the nest egg—and that affects their quality of life. The longer a senior waits to find help, the harder it will be to regain financial stability. Need another reason to get help sooner instead of later? The stress of problem gambling can be the catalyst for serious health issues, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

Take care of your own well-being.

Does your loved one’s addiction to gambling make you angry? Frustrated? Embarrassed? Sad? Those negative emotions can have a big impact on your own life, so don’t ignore them. Talk with a professional counselor. He or she will assess your well-being and provide techniques for dealing with the stress of a loved one’s addiction. In addition, consider going to meetings at Gam-Anon, a group focused on helping gamblers’ family members find comfort and hope.

Take the quiz on our home page to find out if an older loved one is at risk. Then, talk with the Compass Mark team for confidential guidance and gambling resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA. Call 717-299-2831 or fill out the very simple Gambling Help Form.

Learn more in 14 Financial Warning Signs for Problem Gambling and 5 Reasons to Get Problem Gambling Help for a Senior–Now.


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