How do I give advice to someone who is having problems due to their alcohol use?

Firstly, start by showing concern not disapproval.

“I noticed that you’ve not been sleeping well recently. What do you think could be causing this?”

“Some people when they feel lonely or isolated can develop ways of coping such as drinking more alcohol. Does this sound familiar to you?”

“When we drink at home we may be pouring more alcohol than we meant to. Can we have a chat about measuring drinks, and what amount is safe?”

When giving advice to someone who may be having problems due to their alcohol use ensure:

  • that the factors behind their drinking are explored, these could include isolation, chronic pain, or financial worries
  • you encourage a belief that change is possible, including encouragement to make small changes (for example, two alcohol free days a week and drinking water alongside alcohol)
  • they seek medical advice before stopping or reducing alcohol consumption if their levels of drinking are already causing them harm, it could be that in these cases they may need a clinical assessment and if required an alcohol detox
  • to encourage other positive behaviours that will increase their protective factors, including eating healthily and remaining active
  • you give as much information as possible to support the person to make healthier choices – you can find many resources on our website that can help with this, tips for drinking wiselyrecommended guidelines, and where to get help
  • any barriers are explored that may be stopping them changing their behaviour, for example, do they need help to attend appointments?
  • where possible and if the person agrees you visit them in their home, this removes any barriers for them such as difficulties with mobility and concerns around stigma
  • a risk assessment is carried out and address any trip and fire hazards around the home, in some areas Fire Safety checks can be carried out by Fire and Rescue services
  • you arrange for them to have a physical health/dental check
  • to engage with their family or support circle (with the person’s consent) to seek additional encouragement and help
  • you explore other areas of their life and try and increase social activity and inclusion, for example, what are their interests, what strengths and skills do they have?

Harm Reduction

In some instances, people will not be ready to make changes and the priority for you as the frontline worker/ professional is to keep them as safe as possible and minimise risk where they continue to drink. This is commonly known as ‘harm reduction’.

If a person’s drinking is continuing or becomes more problematic, and they don’t feel ready to make changes you can:

  • signpost or refer to local alcohol specialist service or health practitioner
  • support them to attend appointments
  • liaise with the alcohol specialist service to explore the need for a fuller assessment of needs and any potential support medication required, such as thiamine
  • write down unmet needs, as and when you come across them, and explore with the person how to address these
  • consider arranging to have the person assessed by a mental health specialist if you’re concerned about their mental capacity

 You can learn more about alcohol and ageing on our training page.