The hard part is over.
I'm matching you with one of our specialists who will be calling you in the next few minutes.
Also, I believe a traditional drug/alcohol rehabilitation program would be too physically difficult for an elderly woman. Perhaps a modified rehab could be worked out, if it comes to that. Withdrawal is hard on the body. If there are chronic illnesses you can see how it would be too rigorous.
I agree too that substance abuse is about pain, to alleviate pain. Find the problem BEHIND the excessive drinking!!!
You will find there the tools and attitude to help your sister.
But someone in her 80s who leaves burners on (with or without the flame) is perhaps not safe to cook no matter what the reason is. My mother got by with only a microwave her last couple of years in an apartment, and I remember that the stove in my grandmother's home was disconnected. (Drinking wasn't involved for either of them.) Keeping the elderly safe from ourselves becomes one of the goals of our loved ones.
Drinking can cause memory loss, but it can work the other way around, too. She has known for years or has recently discovered that she really likes wine or a gin-and-tonic. Her one glass mid-afternoon has not been a problem. She still remembers that she likes that beverage, but she does not remember that she has already had 3 glasses today. Possible.
A successful intervention ends with the subject accepting treatment, right? If Sis has dementia or some other cognitive impairment that might have a large impact on whether typical treatment could be effective. Even if she agreed with it and wanted to do it, she has to be able to remember what she is taught.
So ... the first intervention I recommend is getting her evaluated. Neuro-psych is good. Behavioral neurologist is good. Geriatric psychiatrist is good. In fact, starting with a geriatrician who would probably make a referral is good. Getting a loved one evaluated who doesn't want that isn't easy and requires some creative thinking. Some members here have used claims like, "Insurance requires that you have a medical examination before your next birthday, to establish a baseline." Whatever it takes, have her evaluated. You don't have to tell her you are worried about possible dementia.
Happyjack, I have three sisters, all younger. I sincerely hope that if they notice these kinds of changes in me, they will take steps to help me. I don't know exactly what you should do, but I certainly admire your intention to help.
Please keep in touch here, and let us know what you try and how it works. We learn from each other.
Can I ask you what you would hope a psych eval would do for the situation? Are you concerned that her drinking is a sign of dementia? Are you sure that this is absolutely new behavior? Or could she have been a dysfunctional drinker for years without anyone acknowledging it? Has something in her life drastically changed in the past 2 years that would cause her pain (in my experience, substance abuse of any kind is usually an effort to treat pain be it emotional or physical pain). Did a loved one die and now she has sadness and too much time on her hands? Would she benefit from a grief support group?
My suggestion would be the same for any age. Express your love and concern without judgment. Statements like "I am worried about you because it seems like you are drinking more now" might be received better than "You are drinking too much and it is bad for you"
What are your specific concerns about her drinking? Is she driving and you are worried about an accident? Is she unsteady on her feet and drinking could cause a fall? Is her health suffering? If it is her health, maybe ask her if you could go to her doctor with her and then bring it up to the doctor that you are concerned about drinking.
Bottom line is that an adult with her cognitive function intact has the "right" to drink and eat what she wants to. All we can do is express our concern with specific examples of why we see it as a problem, offer our support and hope for the best.
Best of luck to you