Study on older people who drink
Sarah Brealey Some old people are damaging their health and risking falls and broken bones because they drinking too much.Now, £30,000 is to be spent in Norfolk trying to learn the scale of the issue.
Some old people are damaging their health and risking falls and broken bones because they drinking too much.
Now, £30,000 is to be spent in Norfolk trying to learn the scale of the issue.
The county has a rising number of elderly people and it is thought there is a hidden drink problem as well as addiction to prescription drugs such as diazepam and codeine.
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NHS Norfolk, the primary care trust which covers most of the county, says there is “significant anecdotal evidence to suggest that alcohol dependency amongst the older population in Norfolk is increasing”.
It is going to find out how many over-65s are drinking too much or are dependent on prescription drugs. It is also going to look at what services are already available and whether they are meeting the needs of the elderly. GPs will be asked to be on the alert for signs of alcohol abuse in their patients.
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According to the General Household Survey in 2006, 15pc of over-65s drink every day - a higher proportion than any other age group.
Drinking, even at lower levels, can be more risky among older people because of declining health and the combination with prescription medicines.
Jocelyn Pike, lead commissioner for substance misuse for NHS Norfolk, said: “We know anecdotally we have a massive problem with older people and substance abuse. It is not just alcohol but prescription drugs. People are turning up with slips, trips and falls and it might be because of alcohol dependency or substance use.”
Daniel Harry, partnership liaison officer for Norfolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said: “They might be drinking because of bereavement, because they are in enduring pain, or because they are socially isolated, but that might be making the problem worse.”
He said heavy drinking could lead to someone being asked to leave a residential home, or could mean they could no longer cope on their own at home.
One of the problems is that the symptoms of harmful drinking - from headaches and nausea to an untidy house - can be confused with symptoms of an age-related illness.
Mr Harry said: “This is an opportunity to do a piece of research and find out if this is as much of a problem as the limited national research suggests if might be. There is an ageing population in Norfolk and it is an area that people like to retire to, so there may be more prob-lems than in a similar-sized area.”
Phil Wells, chief executive of Age Concern Norfolk, said: “A significant number of people coming to us come for problems which are made worse by alcohol... There is clearly a problem among older people and it can cause financial and other difficulties.
“We know mental health problems are serious and tend to be ignored. We would very much welcome the primary care trust supporting work in this area.”