If your senior loved one is a heavy drinker, they are at risk for alcohol-related dementia.
While moderate alcohol consumption does not seem to increase the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, chronic alcohol abuse or regular heavy drinking can harm brain cells, leading to cognitive decline and brain damage.
Unlike other forms of progressive dementia, the symptoms of alcohol-related dementia can potentially be prevented and further damage may be stopped by completely discontinuing alcohol consumption.
Read on to learn more about alcohol-induced dementia, symptoms, treatment options, and where to find a safe and compassionate memory care community.
As the name suggests, alcohol-related dementia is a form of dementia caused by chronic and excessive alcohol consumption over many years. Seniors are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects that alcohol has on the body.
This dementia generally occurs as a result of long-term alcoholism, but it can also arise from frequent episodes of heavy drinking or binge drinking throughout their lives.
The excessive consumption of alcohol can directly harm brain cells, disrupt neurotransmitters, and affect brain structures responsible for memory, cognition, and overall mental functioning.
Over time, these cumulative effects can lead to a range of cognitive impairments, including:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with reasoning and problem-solving
- Diminished attention span
- Language and communication difficulties
- Mood swings
Fortunately, if your loved one’s alcohol consumption comes to an end early enough, the progression of alcohol-induced dementia may be halted.
Early recognition of symptoms is crucial for a timely diagnosis and intervention.
Symptoms can look similar to dementia that isn’t caused by alcohol consumption, but if they’re exhibiting the signs in addition to having a history or current habit of alcohol abuse, it may be time to get them to a doctor.
If your senior loved one drinks excessively, look out for the following symptoms.
Seniors may struggle to recall recent events, experience difficulty in retaining new information, and exhibit an overall decline in memory function.
They may forget important details, appointments, and conversations, which can significantly impact their daily lives and relationships.
Alcohol-related dementia can also affect language and communication abilities. Seniors may find it challenging to express their thoughts coherently, retrieve words, and understand complex sentences, even when they’re not drinking.
Conversations become difficult, and they may struggle to follow along, leading to frustration and social isolation.
Cognitive impairments extend beyond memory and language skills. Alcohol-related dementia often manifests as problems with reasoning and problem-solving abilities.
Tasks that were once easily accomplished become increasingly challenging, and seniors may struggle with planning, making decisions, and assessing risks, leading to poor judgment and impulsive behavior.
Again, these can be hallmarks of alcohol-induced behavior, but if this is happening on a regular basis, it could be cause for concern.
Mood swings become more frequent, and seniors may exhibit heightened irritability, agitation, and anger. This is another common symptom of alcohol consumption, and sometimes even just normal aging. But the severity and frequency of the issue may indicate a bigger problem.
They may also experience anxiety, depression, and a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, leading to social withdrawal and isolation, which can be dangerous for any senior.
Seniors may frequently experience difficulties with balance, walking, and performing tasks that require fine motor control.
Simple activities like buttoning clothes or tying shoelaces become challenging, impacting their independence and overall quality of life.
If you have concerns about your loved one exhibiting symptoms of dementia, encourage them to seek the guidance of a healthcare professional.
This may be difficult if your loved one has a current problem with alcoholism. Try getting other family members on board to discuss options with your loved one. You could also consult with their doctor on your own or seek out the help of a professional counselor.
There’s no cure, necessarily. However, dementia that’s brought on by alcoholism doesn’t progress the same way that Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia does. That means that symptoms can be improved with the right support and intervention.
A diagnosis will involve a comprehensive assessment to determine the presence and extent of cognitive impairments related to alcohol abuse.
The process typically includes evaluating the senior’s medical history, alcohol consumption patterns, and cognitive functioning, and ruling out other potential causes of dementia.
Medical professionals may use various tools and tests to assess cognitive abilities, such as memory, language skills, problem-solving, and attention. They may also perform brain imaging scans, such as MRI or CT scans, to identify any structural brain damage associated with alcohol abuse.
Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment options can be explored. The primary and most crucial step is complete abstinence from alcohol.
The person is often required to stay in the hospital for a period of time to detox from the alcohol and get through the withdrawal. Withdrawal can lead to delirium, meaning disorientation, confusion, and agitation, which could be more than family caregivers can handle. The hospital will also be able to administer medication to help with the withdrawal.
Depending on the extent of the addiction, your loved one’s overall health, and their functional abilities, various options can then be considered.
These may include treatment at an addiction treatment center, the support of a caregiver to assist with daily activities, or transitioning into a senior living community that offers specialized care by trained professionals.
The decision to transition your loved one to a memory care community should be based on a thorough evaluation of their specific needs.
If caring for your loved one at home has become unsafe or overwhelming, transitioning them into a memory care community may provide you with peace of mind and relieve some of the caregiving responsibilities. Additionally, trained counselors and health care professionals could help your loved one stay sober in a supportive community environment.
Kensington Park Senior Living provides a comprehensive range of senior living options to cater to diverse needs. Our offerings include independent and assisted living, as well as three levels of memory care – Kensington Club, Connections, and Haven – for varying levels of needs.
With these three levels of memory care, we ensure your loved one receives specialized and tailored care based on their unique needs and the level of support they need.
From mild cognitive support to more intensive care, our memory care neighborhoods are designed to provide high acuity assistance to seniors with varying stages of impairment. High acuity care means that your loved one can be taken care of no matter how their needs change over time.
At Kensington Park Senior Living, we are dedicated to providing exceptional care and support to our residents, regardless of the level of care they require.
We understand the importance of creating a nurturing and welcoming environment where residents feel valued, respected, and loved. Our dedicated team is committed to going above and beyond to meet the unique needs of every resident under our care.
- Around-the-clock care
- On-site nurses 24/7
- Medication administration and injections
- Three neighborhoods for all levels of Alzheimer’s care and Dementia care
- Rehabilitation services
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Wellness services
- Creative art therapies
- Brain wellness
- Music therapy
- Massage therapy
- Personal training
- Beauty salon
- Exquisite dining services
- Specialty diets
- A calendar full of life-enrichment activities