The rate of drinking among residents in assisted living facilities is high, a new study suggests. Researchers asked more than 800 nursing aides in facilities about behaviors they had observed, or had evidence of, among residents they cared for. Their responses suggest nearly 70 percent of assisted living residents drank alcohol, according to The New York Times.
More than one-third of residents drank daily, and 12 percent had abused alcohol—defined as drinking enough to cause physical or psychosocial harm—in the previous three months. The study also found almost 20 percent of residents had experienced an apparent influence on their health from drinking in the past three months.
Rules regarding alcohol vary greatly among facilities, according to the newspaper. Some ban alcohol, while others have happy hours.
While alcohol misuse or abuse does not appear to increase with age, drinking may have more harmful effects for people in their 80s, the article notes. As their tolerance for alcohol declines, drinking can lead to more falls, high blood pressure, depression, and other illnesses and accidents. Many residents of assisted living facilities also take multiple medications, which can interact with alcohol, said lead researcher Nicholas G. Castle of the University of Pittsburgh.
He said he is not recommending a ban on alcohol in assisted living facilities. “Taking away things elders enjoy is the last thing we want to do,” he remarked, adding that in small amounts, alcohol can stimulate appetites, which could benefit some elderly patients. He said his goal was to increase awareness about the issue of drinking in assisted living facilities.
The results are published in Research on Aging.