How to Tell if Grandma Has a Gambling Problem


Your Family Health Portrait

For most older adults, gambling is simply a fun recreational activity, but for those who become addicted to it, it can be a devastating disease that can financially wipe them out.

Problem gambling among U.S. seniors is on the rise. Studies suggest that more than 4 million Americans, age 65 and older, could have a gambling problem.

The reasons behind this growing problem are because seniors have time and money on their hands and the influx of casinos that have cropped up around the country have made access to gambling much more convenient.

But there are many reasons seniors can be vulnerable to gambling problems. For starters, seniors are often catered to by casinos with free bus transportation, free drinks, discounted meals, special rewards and other prizes as a way to entice them.

In addition, many seniors use gambling as a way to distract or escape feelings of loneliness, depression or even a chronic health condition. Some may have financial problems they are seeking to overcome. And some may have cognitive impairment that interferes with their ability to make sound decisions.

Adding to the problem is that many seniors may not understand addiction, making them less likely to identify a gambling problem. Or they may be confused or embarrassed that they can’t control their urges to gamble and reluctant to seek help because they think that at their age, they should know better. And even if they recognize that they have a problem, they may not know that help is available or where to get it.

Get Help
How can you know if your parent or grandparent has a gambling problem? Gamblers Anonymous offers a 20-question online test at GamblersAnonymous.org that he or she can take to help determine if they have a problem. In the meantime, here are some questions you can ask to help evaluate their situation.

  • Are they preoccupied with gambling, constantly talking about it, or planning to gamble versus doing his normal activities?
  • Are they gambling more and more money to get the same level of excitement?
  • Are they using their retirement funds or other savings to gamble, or are they pawning or selling personal items to get money to gamble with?
  • Have they lost control to the point that they can’t set a limit of time and money to spend in the casino, and stick to it?
  • Do they become uncomfortable, angry or lie when you ask them about his gambling activities?

If your loved one answers yes to any of these questions, he or she may have a problem. To find help contact the Oklahoma Problem Gambling Helpline at 800-522-4700. They can direct you to resources in your area, including counselors who have been trained through the National Certified Gambler Counseling Program.

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