Does the elderly patient you’re caring for have a gambling problem?

Editor’s note: In this guest post, Anna Preston, a consultant with Live-In Care Hub, a UK non-profit organization, discusses how we can identify gambling issues in the elderly and how we can help those who have a gambling problem.

By Anna Preston (Live-In Care Hub, a UK non-profit)

Gambling has, in recent years, infiltrated all levels of society. Far from being the preserve of largely older men hanging around the racecourse or bookies, or indeed older women spending their money in the bingo halls, the rise in online gambling in particular has become a massive problem for people from all walks of life and all ages.

There are now more than ever numerous ways for people to gamble away their money from betting on races and other sporting events to lotteries and online games. Advertising for these is everywhere which draws more and more people in to the world of gambling. A recent YouGov survey estimated that there were some 1.4 million problem gamblers in the UK with around 5 million people affected in some way by gambling.

Source: Online Poker Israel
Gambling as an addiction

Compulsive gambling is now classed as an addiction in the same way as drinking or drug taking and unfortunately older people are increasingly classified as gambling addicts. This is partly due to the fact that many have more disposable income to spend and a large amount of time on their hands in which to spend it. Other reasons include:

  • Cognitive impairment leading to poor decision making.
  • Depression and illness can lead to gambling as a distraction behaviour.
  • Gambling companies often aim marketing and inducements at older people.
  • A lack of supervision may facilitate a person’s gambling habit.
How can a caregiver recognize the signs of a problem gambler?

As someone providing live-in care at home services you’ll need to carefully observe your client if you are to spot the signs that their gambling is getting out of control. People who have a gambling addiction are inclined to be secretive about what they are doing, and this can be partly out of shame or embarrassment. Signs can include:

  • Hiding bank statements or being secretive about financial issues.
  • Using retirement funds or savings to gamble.
  • Failing to pay bills or buy shopping due to a lack of money.
  • Selling or pawning personal items to raise money.
  • Stealing items or money from others.
  • Spending larger and larger amounts of money to get the same excitement.
  • Lying and getting angry when they are asked about their gambling.
  • Being unable to set time and spending limits.
  • Being unable to stop.
How to get help for them

As the person giving care at home, you must take charge of getting your patient the help they need to curtail or stop their gambling. If they have run-up debts and are struggling with money problems Citizen’s Advice can help.

Their primary care physician could refer them for cognitive behavioral therapy. Talking therapy may help manage problems and behavior. Gambling charity GamCare, which runs the National Gambling Helpline, offers free information, counseling, and support for problem gamblers and those affected by problem gamblers. They work through live chats with an advisor, group chats, or a forum and message boards.

GamCare can be accessed at

The National Council on Problem Gambling operates the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (1-800-522-4700). The network is a single national access point to local resources for those seeking help with a gambling problem. The network consists of 28 call centers that provide resources and referrals for all 50 states, Canada and the US Virgin Islands. Help is available 24/7 and is 100% confidential. The National Council on Problem Gambling website can be found by clicking here.

Anna Preston is a consultant with Live-In Care Hub, a not-for-profit organization committed to raising the quality of elderly care in the UK by giving everyone the opportunity to be cared for in their own home, where they can still feel part of their community.

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