When a family member encounters gambling problem, seniors must feel anxious and concerned, and even furious. They usually have a lot of questions in their heads such as how their family members develop gambling problem, and how they could help him/her.
To help family member cope with gambling disorder, seniors should care for their own emotions and physical health first, and speak to gamblers calmly with an affirmative and non-judgmental attitude. For example, “I know you are troubled lately, somehow lost. Would you share with me your current situation?” We need to listen to and encourage gamblers to voice out their difficulties instead of accusing and demanding their apologies, which would destroy the communication. Do not attempt to control the gamblers because this would only lead to a negative effect and make you even unhappier.
If gamblers have difficulties in debts management, they may find you for financial assistance. From clinical experience, many seniors would repeatedly lend to gamblers or be their trustee to help them borrow money from financial companies, because they are afraid of adverse impacts on gamblers’ work, family relationship or being badgered by creditors. However, this cannot help gamblers take up their own responsibility and reflect on their weaknesses in order to confront their problems related to gambling. Instead, this might reduce their alertness to their gambling behavior, or gamble again to hopefully repay their elderly family members and solve problems. As a result, they relapse.
To help gamblers deal with their addiction effectively, seniors can help them understand their root causes of problem, which cannot not be resolved by merely clearing their debts. We can encourage them to take up their responsibility and solve their financial problems using other methods, and take up their responsibility. For examples, debts reallocation, calling debts counselling hotline for consultation (TWGHs Healthy Financial Management Hotline: 2548 0803). With gamblers’ consent, we can discuss with family about managing his/her finance temporarily, allocation of his/her assets, and even receiving counselling service together with the gamblers.
If gamblers don’t want to change his/her gambling behavior at the moment, seniors can express their disagreement. Do not appreciate him/her for winning money explicitly, or implicitly by celebrate by spending money won from gambling. Seniors should protect their own assets carefully too. For instances, locking their valuable up, cancelling joint account and property ownership, keeping gamblers away from large amounts of money, or paying in cash. When necessary, seniors can keep their important documents and identification documents in a safe place.
Seniors should pay attention to gamblers’ emotional changes. If they are found depressive or with suicidal ideation, family should seek help from the Police or Samaritans Befrienders Hong Kong (Tel: 2389 2222).
While facing debts and family problems resulted from gambling disorder, seniors and their family may feel helpless. They should seek professional help as early as possible. They can call TWGHs Even Centre’s hotline for consultation and supports (Tel: 1834 633 Press “1” / 2827 4321).