Problem drinking among older people is on the increase, with an estimated 20%-25% of over-65s drinking at unsafe levels, according to research published last week by the institute of psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience at King’s College London. Moreover, prosecutions for drink-driving of adults over 65 have increased by a sobering 40% in the last 10 years.
I know something of the devastation alcohol addiction can bring from experience within my own family. My much loved aunt struggled with severe alcoholism for 20 years, before falling while drunk in her early 60s and suffering a brain haemorrhage, which led her to develop dementia.
Her husband, my beloved Uncle Pad, cared for her devotedly in extremely difficult circumstances, until it became impossible for him to continue and my aunt went to live in a home. Tragically, by this point my uncle, now in his 70s, had developed an alcohol addiction of his own. He died, as a consequence of his drinking, on Christmas day 2010. His daughter, my cousin Leala, found him dead in the bath with the taps still running.
We need to address drinking problems in older age
Now Leala, a political journalist, has made a programme for BBC Radio 4 in which she seeks to understand what happened to her father and why, despite his background as a doctor and his long experience of witnessing his wife’s alcoholism, Pad was unable to prevent himself falling prey to the same addiction. In searching for answers, Leala talks to friends and family, as well as to people struggling with similar problems, campaigners and medical experts. It’s a hugely courageous and important exploration of an addiction so heavily stigmatised that many of those affected go to understandable lengths to keep it hidden, a situation that only serves to perpetuate the problem.
Read the full article here.