dementia and alcohol issues


Registered User
Jun 5, 2007

my mum was diagnosed with mild vascular/alcohol-related dementia about two years ago, after a heart attack and triple bypass surgery. this manifested itself mainly in being more forgetful than usual and having problems reasoning. she also became more prone to falls than before (we are told this is due to a combination of reasons, including poor hearing and only having sight in one eye). she is now nearly 70 but has the physical problems of someone much older, and not surprisingly she has suffered from quite a lot of depression.

in fact my mum has been depressed for a long time, much longer than these problems, and one way for her to cope, apart from anti-depressants (which now seem to have been banned as her sodium level has come down), has been to drink alcohol, mainly wine. this has been going on for about 30 years, and has been relatively under control at times, as well as being well out of control at others. we have tried everything to help her stop, and she has at times stopped, but in the last couple of years we have left her to her own devices, having decided that it is ultimately her decision. in the meantime we have worried like crazy and spent countless hours discussing whether or not to intervene. of course this has had an impact on her and all her children and grandchildren. she lives alone, with a carer to get her up in the morning and a live-in afternoon carer who is wonderfully calm and tolerant.

more recently she has had two spells in hospital and has not been drinking for that time (except the week in-between). her dementia seems to have progressed (she even had hallucinations, and constantly talks about being on a boat/train/still being married, climbing out of hospital windows, etc.), but in this last week in hospital she has improved quite a lot, but not returned to the way she was in march. the psychologist rang me to say she wants to go home, and what do we think?

well, having seen how she was a few weeks ago i decided with my brothers and sisters that she needed residential care (the doctors told us as much) and we've been looking into that. but now that she seems a bit more 'normal' we feel confused. the problem is that even if we got her 24 hour care at home we feel the alcohol issue is going to get in the way. her current carer has said 'she cannot drink anymore if she goes home', which i take to mean she would leave if she did drink (and i would too if i were in her shoes!). she would be at great risk to herself and possibly others, and the responsibility for someone to 'police' her would be awful. and we tend to think that she would definitely associate home with alcohol and not take no for an answer. maybe naively we are thinking she would think about it less in a care home (our basis for this is partly that when she has been to a day centre 3 times a week she doesn't drink during those hours; she tends to drink more out of boredom than anything else).

does anyone have any experience of dealing with alcoholics who have dementia? or what care homes do about this issue? i'd really appreciate any advice anyone has, as i'm sure we can't be the only ones who have been through it.

thanks! peppa

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
I`m sorry I can`t be of help, Peppa, as I`ve nothing to suggest, but do sympathize with anyone who has to cope with Alcoholism, on top of Dementia.

Surely Social Services would be able to advise you whether or not care homes have programmes for Alcoholics, or whether your mother will need to go through a detox programme elsewhere, prior to going into a NH.


Registered User
Apr 15, 2007
Hi Peppa, my mother-in-law was a alcholic and in 1999 my father-in-law took his own life, my mother-in-law thought he was just sleeping in the car,a neighbour had realised something was wrong when he noticed the hose comming from the exhaust pipe, and the rest is history, anyway the police on the scene were so concerned about the condition of my mother-in-law(drunk) that they, in their duty of care reported her to community services, hubby and I took over her care (or more like joined her nightmare) and she was diagnosed with alcoholic dementia we had to reduce her alcohol:eek: after 20 months we were at the end of our tether and envied the father-in-law we looked into nursing care, the only alcohol allowed was on a friday 'Happy Hour' one beer.:eek: Thankfully for her this didn't come to pass, as her life was miserable enough, she ended up having a stroke in her sleep she was admitted into hospital and to this day will never understand the need for morphine because she said, she was in no pain but she slipped into a morphinized coma and didn't wake up.This was really a blessing in disguise. It is so damn hard when your having to make decisions for others, but at least we always new where she was, at the table with what she called her honey pot. (beer glass). Taffy.


Registered User
Apr 16, 2006
Hi Peppa
My mum started t act a bit strange after my stepfather died two years ago, If I am honest it started before that, but that is when it became obvious. Since then I have had to get her admitted into hospital three times, we have been through hell with her, throughout all of this she has refused to give up her Bandy. trouble is she thinks she only has one, just before the last admission to hospital she was on one-two bottles a day she was having bad falls was black and blue and looked half starved. I had tried every thing I could she promised me she would not drink and then forgot....She was not recieving her medication because she would be asleep when the carer came...Mum has not had a drink now since march as she stayed in the hospital and then three weeks ago she went into a home..she tinks se is going home in a few days but I know without a doubt if she did she would drink again as she still will not admit there is anything wrong with her. I do not know if we can keep her in the home or what will happen next but I just wanted you to know you are not alone with your worries


Registered User
Jun 5, 2007
thanks for your replies.

and i'm glad i'm not alone on this one! my mum also forgets how much she's had to drink, and even claims that it no longer affects her (despite the fact that she falls even more frequently and simply can't believe anyone who tells her she was drunk the night before). and it is a tricky one, figuring out how to help her not forget how much she's had...alcoholics are well known for being economical with the truth, and for stashing bottles in all sorts of hiding places.

mum was in hospital for about 6 weeks in march/april and we had hoped this might mean she would stop when she came out. but she didn't. she was readmitted with a low sodium problem within 2 weeks of leaving hospital, and she's still there. today we took her out just for the day (her birthday) and agonised about whether or not to give her the champagne she wanted. we ended up sharing a bottle between four and she was delighted (watched her glass like a hawk). she had been in such a bad mood with us beforehand, and to be honest the only things she wanted today were her dog and alcohol - forget seeing her children or young grandchildren! it seems that even with dementia the pull of the alcohol doesn't leave you.