Screening for Alcohol Abuse

It is a standard of care, before a resident moves into an Assisted Living Community to perform a variety of assessments.  Communities verify diagnosis, medications, ability to perform ADLs as well as review social interests.  Often overlooked is screening for alcohol abuse.

  • Health care providers tend to overlook alcohol or drug problems among older people, mistaking the symptoms for dementia, depression, or other problems common to older adults.
  • Older adults are more likely to hide their alcohol or drug use and less likely to seek professional help.
  • Many relatives of older individuals with substance use disorders, particularly their adult children, are living in denial or ashamed of the problem and choose not to address it.

Although everyone is different, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, recommends that people over age 65 should have no more than seven drinks a week and no more than three drinks on any one day.  Of course some residents can consume far less alcohol and still be a safety concern in the community.

  1. Ask about alcohol use.
  2. Know resources in your community for seniors experiencing alcohol or other substance abuse problems.
  3. Clarify your policy on alcohol consumption in the community.
  4. Set realistic expectations.  Sometimes families or others believe we can control alcohol use, when in fact we have limited ability.
  5. Encourage the family to seek professional help

Finding Care for an Elderly Parent with Substance Abuse: What are my options?

Alcohol Use In Older People

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