Lots of people drink alcohol, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. And as this is common with lots of people, it will be common for people living with dementia. Some of them will like to drink some alcohol and some won’t.
For those people who like to have the occasional drink, one thing to understand is that 65% of people with dementia have another co-morbidity, which means another health condition that has a significant impact on them. And this might mean that they need to take medication to manage their other health issue, as well as some dementia’s have medications that can assist with some of the symptoms. Which means that alcohol might be counter indicated, so that their medication might interrupt the effectiveness of the alcohol or vice versa. Therefore the person should have a conversation with their doctor about whether they can drink alcohol and if so how much. Or maybe they drink the non-alcoholic version of what they drank before, so they still have the taste of wine or beer, but none of the alcohol.
For anyone who is alcohol dependent, dementia will not make their dependency go away and will become problematic for the carer to try to support them. Alcohol dependency is an illness, there are common behaviours that go with drinking alcohol at the dependency level. The person will not be able to resist the lure that alcohol has for them, which will lead to seeking behaviours. For a person who is alcohol dependent, they will struggle to engage with alcohol services, as although it is not impossible for a person with dementia to learn new things, it is certainly very hard. And rehabilitation or becoming sober takes significant daily effort, which the person with dementia is likely to forget at some point. If the person has been sober for years or decades, they will remain an alcoholic, but will be a sober one. This means that they will need extra support to manage their sobriety, to spot the triggers and the risks to their sobriety, which for each person will vary. For some it will mean not being around alcohol at all, there can be none in the house and they cannot go to a bar, for others, it means that the booze is locked away, as although they might not try to get it on a good day, on a bad one, they might forget how to be sober.
Caring for a person with dementia will always have good and bad days. Days of deep and profound connection that would probably not have happened if the person did not have dementia as well as days where big or small things go wrong, the journey of dementia mirrors the journey of life, that things go wrong. If issues with alcohol also need a response, seek advice from a professional or a help group for people with alcohol issues. The same is true for a person who uses recreational drugs, seek help to manage their sobriety and to manage your own feelings around drugs and alcohol, the alcohol affects the carer as much as it does the alcoholic, just in different ways. If this affects you, good luck, I wish you the very best for the dementia journey you are on.