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Alzheimer's, alcohol and stealing


Registered User
Nov 16, 2015
Hi everyone, sorry in advance for the long post

My partner cares for her mum who has Alzheimer's, she's 68 and was diagnosed 3 years ago. She's been pretty stable, on Donepezil which is helping to keep her steady, and the last four MMSEs she's had the same score, give or take a point. She's been relatively independent, no need for carers as such, with my partner or I visiting each evening to give pills, cook a meal and do light cleaning.

However over the last few months, she's started to drink - a lot. It started with a beer in the evenings, progressed to beer during the day, and then starting to drink around 9.30am. We've tried substituting with non-alcoholic beer, but she doesn't like the taste and goes out to buy 'normal' beer when we're at work. When she drinks, her dementia advances to such a point that she seems much, much further along than she is. When she's sober, she can function relatively well.

We tried getting her to go to a day centre, which she enjoyed at first, but now refuses to go. She was the only dementia sufferer there and other people complained that she was repetitive, so she won't go back. She won't go to a dementia-specific day care, as "it's full of old ladies and I'm not old".

My partner has full control over the finances and has restricted her 'pocket money', buying everything she needs food and home-wise, so the extra few pounds are to stop her panicking that she has no money.

However, things have reached crisis point this evening - my partner went round after work as usual, and caught her coming out of the local shop with cans of beer tucked in her coat and up her sleeves. No purse - she'd obviously stolen them.

Took her home, and my partner checked the bin to see how much she's drunk - she's had a whole bottle of wine and 10 cans in one day. There was wine spilt on the carpet and faeces smeared on her hands and the walls. She also hit my partner and screamed obscenities at her.

We both work full time and have tried to put off having carers as long as we can, as having strangers in her flat makes her anxious - but we're now at a point where we don't know what to do. Has anyone been in the same situation? How can we address the alcohol problem?

She's in a privately rented flat in an assisted living block, but the house manager doesn't view dementia lightly, and if she continues to cause problems, they will no doubt complain to the landlord and she will face eviction.

Plan is to call social services tomorrow morning but not sure what to ask for - carers won't help the drinking situation, does she need respite? Or is there some form of rehab for dementia patients, does it even work when the brain doesn't retain information?


Amy in the US

Registered User
Feb 28, 2015
Welcome to Talking Point, and I'm sorry you had to find us, but hope you can get some help, advice, support, insight, and relief here.

First, let me say I'm so sorry to hear about the situation with your partner's mother. Kudos to you both for all your hard work and worry to keep her at home.

I think what you need first is a very deep breath and, if possible, a decent night's sleep. Normally I would suggest a nice glass of wine or a stiff drink, but perhaps that's not very sensitive, given the content of your post, so perhaps a nice book, hot bath, large amount of chocolate, mindless TV, music, or whatever you find pleasant and helpful, is in order as well.

Clearly things are not ok for any of you right now, so something may have to change. I know that's probably very difficult to think about so please take it all with a grain of salt.

I'm in the States and our system works differently to yours, but I know there's some sort of assessment (carers assessment?) you can get in the UK. Someone here will know the right term.

Definitely get onto Social Services. I think the key phrases are crisis and vulnerable adult at risk, but again, someone here will know.

It is also possible that it would not be unreasonable, if something like the screaming and hitting occurs again (that is assault, after all) to call the police. It sounds to me, from what I've read here, that in the UK, first responders can be a gateway to getting social services involved (the police, paramedics, fire fighters, I mean).

I don't want to be the bearer of bad tidings, but what your partner's mother may need is, yes, respite, or even a stay in hospital or other medical facility, to get her dried out, her medications reviewed (many meds don't mix at all well with alcohol), and a proper diagnosis/assessment. I think you call this sectioning in the UK. I realise this may sound drastic and horrible but it (the version here in the States) was the best thing that could have happened to my mother, as I would never have been able to sort out her situation otherwise. Sometimes we have to wait for the crisis, in order to effect change. This is never pleasant.

I am sorry I cannot be of further practical help to you at this moment. If you are in urgent need of someone to talk to, you might ring the Samaritans or the Age UK people or the Alzheimer's UK people: http://www.samaritans.org or http://www.ageuk.org.uk or https://www.alzheimers.org.uk.

They may or may not have practical advice and be able to direct you locally, but the Samaritans, at least, answer the phone 24/7. I know it's late in the UK and you may be feeling overwhelmed.

Best wishes and if you're inclined, we hope you'll come back and let us know how you get on.


Registered User
Mar 2, 2012
Hi Hell's bells

I'm afraid I know only too well what it's like dealing with this mix. My Mum was drinking more and going out to shops to buy whiskey (more portable than beer/wine). Then she would often sip it while out and be brought back by police an neighbours in a terrible state of confusion. this was complicated by the fact that she was living my alcoholic father who would send her to the shops to get his supply. I think at first it was a way of coping with the early signs of dementia.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, social services intervened eventually and she had to go into a care home earlier than what would have normally been the case. She did end up in hospital once due to a fall while out and under the influence. This is how social services became involved. But basically they told me a worse crisis would have to arise before they could intervene (i.e.-section). It nearly came to that but I was able to get her into a care home voluntarily (well it took a few white lies).

Now 3/4 years later she is in nursing home, quite advanced. But I wouldn't want to go back to those days for all the money in world. Can you speak to the GP? I did that and it at least helped that the GP was in the loop. Not that they could do much either until a crisis.

It's a terribly worrying time. But it will come to a head eventually. There aren't really any homes that deal with alcoholism and dementia specifically. But any care home will be used to dealing with all sorts of situations.

All the best.


Registered User
Mar 4, 2012
Hello marsaday. Long time no see.
The problem with alcohol hellsbells is that GPS will not intervene if there is no intention of stopping drinking which is why it has to go to crisis point.
I remember wel marsadayl we've both travelled that path.
I'm sorry hellsbells but there is no good news for you. Carers won't address the drinking issue. In my experience they could quite possibly make things worse.
The only way I can suggest you tackle the alcohol problem is to buy for her and water down within reason so you can control it. It can work but not for everyone. Otherwise you may just have to let the matter reach crisis point. I'm sorry to be blunt And I hope it can be better for your partner's mum.
Try talking to adult social services and I wish you luck.

Hair Twiddler

Registered User
Aug 14, 2012
Middle England
Hi Hells-Bells,
Sympathies to you and your partner. My mum is a heavy drinker. She lives with us and drinks a bottle of wine a day - not toooo much you'd think but she is 88 years old. The drinking was one of the main reasons we moved her in with us. Mixed with the dementia it can be a particularly volatile and stressful mix, as you describe. MOst of the time after 4pm I act as a "safety assistant" to try to anticipate the wobbles, screaming abuse and the falls - I do a pretty good job (i think) but at what cost to my own life and that of my family.

My advice to you would be to contact social services and tell them everything, follow this up with an email to a specific person (you have no idea how anxious i was at one point, fearing that my words were falling on deaf ears and that someone at some point would say "but we didn't know!") an email will give you peace of mind that yes, you did tell people. Take some photo's too of the bottles and cans,an attachment to your email will surely emphasise your concerns and maybe focus theirs. Make sure that your partners mum's doctor knows too - if they can't speak face to face send them a letter. Don't worry about including the why-this-is-happening or fall into the guilt trap of trying to explain why you can't do more (you can only do so much - we on TP ALL know this) just stick to the facts.

Best Wishes, let us know how you get on.
Twiddler x


Registered User
Mar 2, 2012
Hi Bemused,

Yes I haven't been on much lately as we have moved countries. I don't know if you remember I had always wanted to move to France. Well the chance came up and we took it. Mum is still in the nursing home at home and very stable and mercifully doesn't even know I've gone. I go back every 6 weeks to visit. After all those years of worry and strife with her I have finally been able to realise my dream. Still feel guilty though that I'm not there. But when I visit she is none the wiser and generally content. Hope all well with you.

Did you get sorted with any help yet Hellsbells?


Registered User
Mar 4, 2012
Wise move marsaday, after all the stress and worry, you have the peace you earned at such a cost.
Don't feel guilty, its your life and the only one you'll get, live in. You never know what is around the corner.
We tick over now, hubs is nowhere near as difficult and the worst problems have been overcome. Who knows what the future holds?
Really good to hear an update and that you are following your dream.

Auntie Mame

Registered User
Jan 24, 2016
Alcoholism and Alzheimer's

I did a search on this forum to find this topic, and I am surprised more people haven't written about this situation. My husband was a mini-binge drinker for years, and maybe that is why the low-level, early-onset dementia has kicked in. Really, I saw signs 10 years ago, when he was just 55. Every time there was a crisis of some kind, he 'quit'; but it never lasted more than 6 months or so. He was always badgering me to buy him a bottle of whatever, which we could ill afford anyway. He doesn't do that very often anymore, because I force myself to get really bat-crazy angry, even as an act on my part, just to emphasize it is a no-no.

With the dementia, any drinking of alcohol immediately not only makes his dementia worse, but irrational anger and accusations have frightened me seriously on a couple of occasions. He is capable of being physically cruel, and I have learned to stay out of his way. I know - call the police... fine and dandy. Life is complicated enough as it is. He is a very very slick liar, as well, when he is seeking the sympathy of other people. It is just the two of us, 'his word against hers'. No family, no friends. We have moved around too often, for financial reasons.

At this point, I have "the power of the purse," as he cannot remember if he has a few dollars in his wallet or not, and usually doesn't. Since he has no way of buying the stuff, it's all right. The only place to get alcohol is a liquor store, not the grocery store. We live in a remote area, and if we go out, we go out together.

So the alcohol situation, which used to be a nightmare for me, has improved, as my husband has lost his cognitive skills. That's a positive outcome, ah yes.


Registered User
Jul 20, 2011
There is quite a lot of information on the forum if you search under Korsakoff's syndrome I think

Miss Merlot

Registered User
Oct 15, 2012
Another point in common hells-bells - my MIL has her alcohol issues as well.

Not in the sort of borderline obsessive sense as your MIL maybe, but she's been a lifelong "glass of wine or three with dinner" type, and will buy a bottle of wine every time she goes to the shop - her kitchen is looking increasingly like a backroom of an Oddbins.

Her issue is that she completely forgets she's not on anything other than her "first" glass, so keeps and keeps drinking - fortunately it tends to just knock her out to sleep rather than making her act out, but it's still worrying nevertheless. She is definitely much much worse as soon as even a few sips have been consumed - especially when combined with sundowning as well.

Back in the days she still had her social club, one of the first major red flags were that members were telling us they'd had to confiscate her car keys (this was before we had to can the driving) as she was always adamant she'd "only had the one"! (Said in a tone of high-pitched indignation, to imagine it right!).

When we go to dinner with her, we are able to keep it under control, as we are able to prevent her ordering more than she can handle. Family events are much harder to monitor or engineer a successful "cut off", and there have been soooooo many cases of spilled red wine across the table, toppling off chairs, or MIL falling asleep in her lunch as a result... The last wedding we were at (it was her goddaughter, and it would have broken her heart not to have gone - not that she remembers it now!), we had to physically restrain her from drinking all the wine that was meant for the whole table - and oh God did she moan about it! Loudly, during the speeches.

So, in short, I feel your pain! Unfortunately I have no solution to offer though...

On the other hand, she's nigh on 80 and it's the one indulgence she has left - it's would be hard to deny her, even if we conceivably ever could..


Registered User
Oct 7, 2014
My mum always likes a glass or more of the hard stuff. When she was first diagnosed we tried all the usual,tricks eg watering it down etc but she knew and just had more glasses. The doctor is concerned but she ignores his advice I told him not to bother wasting his breath. She coming up for 94 and it's one of her few pleasures and if it shortens her life by a bit so be it. She doesn't want to be here and wants to join dad. Trouble is he was not a believer.

Sent from my iPad using Talking Point


Registered User
Nov 16, 2015
Thank you so much for all your responses - I've only just realised I didn't reply!

In the end, we contacted social services and the memory clinic team - unfortunately, while they were very sympathetic, they said it's common among dementia sufferers but that there's very little they can do unless we have the dreaded 'crisis'. Which could involve her being cautioned or arrested for stealing, or wandering while in a drunken state and getting herself into trouble - neither of which we particularly want... although did consider that an encounter with the police might shock her enough to make her stop?

Her dementia nurse paid a visit, to gently advise against drinking too much alcohol, but she took great offence, and accused him of calling her an alcoholic. And as soon as he'd left, toddled across to the shop to buy more beer.

We tried buying non-alcoholic lagers in bulk - she didn't like the taste but drank them anyway, until her eagle eye spotted 'non-alcoholic' on the cans, then refused to drink them. Low-alcohol shandies work to an extent, but again she misses the taste of 'real' lager.

She's relatively stable for now, but still gets through 5-6 cans a day. Same as you, MM, she swears blind that she's "only had the one", said while swaying back and forth - but rooting through the bin at the end of the day tells a different story.

She also occasionally has day-long wine- and sherry-drinking sessions with the only other dementia patient in her housing complex. They end up trollied, forget who each other are, or where they live. Always fun to play 'hunt the drunken old ladies' while avoiding the watchful glare of the house manager :roll eyes: