Although half of the US nursing home population may suffer from alcoholrelated problems, less than 3% of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism research budget is earmarked for the elderly Considering the growing elderly population, a Congressional report recently called for legislation to address this issue.
Alcohol is the drug of choice for more than 2.5 million elderly, and more than two thirds of hospitalizations in 1991 were alcohol related. Reasons for the addiction include despair, depression, loss, boredom, and loneliness.
Nursing homes do little to address the problem. Residents exhibiting alcohol-related problems are often discharged for "behavioral problems." Many facilities fail to do much more than simply serve as temporary detoxification centers. Elderly who have problems with alcohol need more than the traditional services of outpatient care, education, and therapy; they need to learn how to cope with problems such as losing income, health, and loved ones [McKnight's LongTerm Care News 1992; 13(4):10].