Right support for people with alcohol-related cognitive impairment can achieve positive outcomes

Posted 11.07.2018


Reacting to NHS Scotland figures out today that show the number of people being admitted to hospital with alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is at an all-time high, Julie Breslin, Head of the Drink Wise, Age Well programme, which helps the over 50s make healthier choices about alcohol, said:

“We have been delivering age-appropriate alcohol services in five parts of the UK including Glasgow for three years and have recently been screening our service users for signs of cognitive impairment.

“This work by the Substance Misuse and Ageing Research Team at the University of Bedfordshire showed that of those screened 50% had some level of cognitive impairment on entering our programme and 37% of the sample showed no impairment on exit.

“This shows that a level of recovery is possible and this has been found in wider research on ARBD. We’ve therefore commissioned consultant psychiatrist Dr Tony Rao to develop resources to enhance how we support people with cognitive impairment so they have the best possible chance of positive outcomes.

“We welcome the additional £20 million Scottish Government has announced to tackle drug and alcohol use, but would urge them to ensure that services are designed or adapted to meet the needs of people affected by alcohol-related cognitive impairment, which includes difficulty remembering appointments and retaining information to fully engage with alcohol interventions.

“Of course prevention has a huge part to play in this and we campaign to raise awareness of alcohol-related harm and provide resilience building activities in communities that have proven very effective. And have just written to the Department of Health to offer insights around supporting older adults with alcohol problems to inform the new UK Alcohol Strategy.”

Dr Tony Rao is an ARBD specialist and old age psychiatrist working at North Southwark Community Mental Health Team for Older Adults and is also a visiting researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.