Elderly Alcoholism Intervention North Pole AK

The Golden Years do not come gently into our lives and unfortunately we may not be prepared for it. Suddenly we find ourselves retired from our jobs and we must prepare ourselves for a new way of life. Many of us have hobbies. Some people volunteer to work for organizations. Many relocate away from family and friends and swear that they are off to experience a new way of life.

Fairbanks Native Association
Ralph Perdue Center
3100 South Cushman Street, Suite 100,
Fairbanks, AK99701
(907) 452-6251x6411

Intake Phone Numbers:
(907) 452-6251x6400

Services Offered: Substance abuse treatment

Residency: Residential long-term treatment (more than 30 days), Outpatient

Payment Accepted: Self payment, Medicaid, Medicare, Private health insurance, Military insurance (e.g., VA,TRICARE)

Specializing in DUI/DWI offenders

For thousands of years Alaska’s first people, jointly called Alaska Natives, made their livelihood as subsistence hunters and fishers (Alaska’s History: The People, Land and Events of the North Country, 1993). In Alaska’s interior region the subsistence traditions of our ancestors were forever changed by the first successful expedition into the Interior by Lt. Henry Allen in 1885 and the discovery of gold in the Tanana Valley surrounding Fairbanks. The discovery of gold brought thousands of non-Native people to the area and the Alaska Native traditional subsistence lifestyle began to give way to one marked by permanent villages, which today rely in large part on a cash economy.

The increasing reliance of these villages on the cash economy has forced many Alaska Natives to leave their ancestral homelands for Alaska’s urban areas, including Fairbanks, to seek employment. In 1960, only 12% of Alaska Natives lived in urban areas. By 1990 the percent of Alaska Natives living in urban areas increased to 44%. Population changes between 1980 and 1990 reflect the highest rate of Native in-migration to urban centers. In 1990, for instance, 11% of the population of the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area (Alaska’s Interior) migrated to other parts of Alaska (Alaska Department of Labor, 1994).

The experiences of the first Alaska Natives to move to the city of Fairbanks were marked by discrimination. Many Alaska Native men serving in the United States Army during World War II at Ladd Airfield Base near Fairbanks were barred from Fairbanks stores, hotels, restaurants, and bars. At that time “No Indians” signs and attitudes were an integral part of the Alaska Native experience in urban areas.

By the mid-1960s most of the signs had come down, but Alaska Natives continued to find that they were welcome in few public places. “Even people who didn’t drink had no place to go except the bars,” said Poldine Carlo, Athabascan Native Elder and one of FNA’s charter members, when asked why she started FNA. “Because there was nowhere else for them to go, we started inviting people over to our house. For two or three winters, we even had different village mushers and their dogs staying here in the woods behind our house.”

It was these experiences that led Poldine Carlo and others, including her husband Bill and Ralph Perdue, Morris Thompson, Margie Wright, John Sackett, and Max Huhndorf to organize an association for urban Alaska Natives. While the Civil Rights Movement was shaking the nation, Alaska Natives in Fairbanks started meeting around Poldine’s kitchen table to design an association that would bring Alaska Native people living in Fairbanks together; an association that would give them a sense of belonging where there was none; an association that would speak on behalf of Alaska Natives, who had little political clout; and an association that would meet their cultural, social, and economic needs.

In 1967 FNA was incorporated as a nonprofit under the laws of the State of Alaska. Membership then as it is now was open to Alaska Natives and American Indians of one-quarter blood or greater who once a year elect a nine-person board of directors. Today FNA is a powerful and influential Native American voice in Alaska. Over the years our organization has changed public policies that were discriminatory to our people and our programs have helped countless people find new jobs, maintain sobriety, celebrate their culture, and receive an education.

As FNA continues to build a stronger community, we will hold true to our mission “to provide quality services in a professional manner for our membership and the greater Fairbanks community.”

Road to Recovery: The Elderly and Alcoholism

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Road to Recovery: The Elderly and Alcoholism

Carol Greenberg

Friday, September 14, 2007 Perhaps, the most difficult thing for people of advanced years to do is to give up an old habit. That habit of drinking too much alcohol. It may have started out as a cocktail or two before dinner followed with a glass of wine with dinner and maybe a brandy before bedtime but now that we find ourselves in the Golden Years and with time on our hands the drinking may have increased and we have become alcoholics. Of course, we would never admit it. We stay in denial until well meaning friends or family members tell us that we drink too much. Naturally, we become defensive and sometimes very nasty and tell them to mind their own business. This attitude has divided families and chased away friends.

The Golden Years do not come gently into our lives and unfortunately we may not be prepared for it. Suddenly we find ourselves retired from our jobs and we must prepare ourselves for a new way of life. Many of us have hobbies. Some people volunteer to work for organizations. Many relocate away from family and friends and swear that they are off to experience a new way of life. Others stay at home, become depressed, or too ill to contemplate a change. Illness, doctors, a lack of family involvement, and the horror of facing death can be the cause of many cases of depression. And, depression can lead to drowning one's sorrows in that bottle of alcohol.

Mildred B., a seventy year old grandmother, thought she was handling her retirement well. She volunteered at the library, walked her dog, and enjoyed preparing her own meals. Every evening she would prepare a Martini and eat dinner watching TV. As time passed she began to have two Martinis and then three and would skip dinner entirely. Her children noticed her mood swings and became worried when they would call and she would ramble over the phone. They knew that she had been drinking but did not know how to stop her. Finally, one night, after she had too much she fell asleep in her chair and when suddenly awakened, stood up, fell and broke her hip.

This is not an unusual story. I spoke to Dr. James Kohl, an orthopedist, who told me that many of his elderly patients come to his office with fractures, broken bones, or worse, and the first thing he asks them if they are alcoholics. If they deny it he gives them a written test prepared by John Hopkins University. He confirmed that blackouts are common among alcoholics, especially the elderly. He said, although many people can drink socially and in moderation, as we age, that ability diminishes, though few of us realize it. Our motor skills naturally decrease, and the risk of falling increases. Many seniors, for example take medications for high blood pressure, heart disease and more. Mixing alcohol with those medications can be lethal.

I also interviewed Dr. Sharon Richter, a certified addictions counselor, who explained that much of the alcohol problem to the m...

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