My sister, 70's, has been drinking too much for her whole adult life. Will AL let her apply to live there or let her move in without the drinking getting under control?

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She is now (she tells me herself) falling down, not eating. Not eating well, lonely (her partner & both dogs, passed away) can't walk much, has to take cabs to go out. A sister in law says she has seen a Dr who has told her to stop drinking, but she (sister) doesn't say that she has. Will an AL place let her apply to live there or let her move in without the drinking getting under control? If she were in would she have access to liquor, or get to a liquor store? It seems evident that if she stays in her condo by herself she'll have a short lifespan based on falling, not eating & drinking too much. What can we family members do to steer her in a healthier direction? I just thought of getting her to get an "I've fallen and I can't get up" necklace. Other ideas?

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Good afternoon Betsey,
If she stops drinking, it should be under a doctor’s supervision. Could she go to a rehab facility for alcoholics? There they could moderate her withdrawal and have her attend AA meetings. Yes, someone her age can get sober, but she needs help.
I remember my father being in the ICU after his stroke. His doctor was concerned that my father was having symptoms not related to his stroke. I called the doctor and told him that my father was a heavy drinker and he was probably going through withdrawal. It was a strange conversation because he asked me a lot of questions about alcholism and getting sober, as if he were asking about himself or someone in his family. Problem drinking is more prevalent than you think.
I didn’t see anything in your post that your sister was willing to stop drinking. If that is so, no, you will not be able to keep her from drinking, and I imagine she would manage to get it in Assisted Living. A further problem is that her drinking can be dangerous in combination with any medication she takes.
My father continued to find ways to drink even after his stroke, and even when years later he became more disabled and confined to a wheelchair. It was only after he became totally dependent on us, the family, and professional caregivers because he could no longer take care of himself, that he stopped drinking. Even so, all the family had to agree to not provide him with alcohol. His doctors monitored him closely and he took antidepressants. I remember at this time that he developed a big sweet tooth, and we worried about diabetes, but his blood sugar was always good and it didn’t affect his weight.
I wish I could be more optimistic about your sister, but if she is still competent and able to make her own decisions she will find a way to drink. What you as a family can do is go to Al-Anon and learn about how alcholism affects the alcholic and the family and how to stay sane whether the alcholic drinks or not. I hope I have not offended you by using the term “alcoholic”. She may be an alcholic or not. The only requirement for membership in AA is that you have a problem with alcohol and want to stop drinking. There are people who stay sober for years in AA who never admit they are an alcholic, but that they have a problem with it and can’t stop drinking by themselves.
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I can understand your concern for your sister. Alcohol can be a terrible thing for some people.

There has been ongoing research into giving alcoholics measured doses of alcohol throughout the day. It goes a bit against the grain of abstinence being the only response to alcoholism, but the programs are proving to be beneficial to long term drinkers.

cbc.ca/news/health/managed-alcohol-programs-canada-australia-1.3921655

Do you think your sister would be interested in moving into assisted living? Could you find one that would give her metered doses of alcohol throughout the day?

A long time alcoholic stopping drinking cold turkey, can lead to other health problems including delirium.
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BetseyP, I doubt your sister would be assessed to be ready for Assisted Living. Your sister sounds like she can get dressed by herself, shower on her own, prepare a meal if she wants one, etc. thus she might be assessed for moving into Independent Living.

The thing with Independent Living, would your sister be able to budget the monthly rent, which runs around $5k per month depending on her area? If she can't, then she wouldn't be able to budget for Assisted Living which is a bit more per month.

Where my Dad had lived, there was one resident who had a drinking problem. The facility gave him just a couple of months to sober up, otherwise he would be asked to leave.

Right now, the only thing you can do is wait until there is a medical emergency, where your sister would need 911, and be hospitalized. Then you can talk to the Social Worker to find out what can be done for your sister once she is ready to leave the hospital.
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Excessive drinking among the elderly is more common than we think. My parents started drinking pretty heavy after I grew up and moved out. What their bodies could tolerate in their 50s and 60s, became a HUGE problem as they entered their 70s. They both stopped eating, lots of falls and bruises. The drinking started a 7 am until afternoon pass out, then resumed later in the day, then they complained of not sleeping at night.

Dad developed dementia. Once he was put on Aricept, it was explained to him that the drinking would negate the effects of the medication, and he actually stopped.

My mom ended up two weeks ago in the hospital and then at a senior mental health ward for a 2-week stay. She dried out and is now being set up with counseling and AA meetings.

I have been dealing with this for the last 7 years. Unfortunately the doctors - from the primary care all the way to the emergency room - just sort of brush over the issue, I guess because it is self-destructive behavior. The person really has to find the motivation to quit. It's a very hard situation to navigate in the medical community and you, as the family member, are just along for the ride because you can't stop the behavior.
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It may be too late for her. At her age, her body could be so addicted and her organs are so damaged that she may not withstand the withdrawing process from alcohol.

I had a cousin who stopped eating and only drank until her organs shut down one by one and nothing doctors could do to save her. She died at the young age of 39.

Sorry for being pessimistic.
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Falls and not eating are signs that she may be in end stage liver failure related to her drinking. Look for an enlarged girth or swollen abdomen up to the rib cage. She is still in full control here. It may take an accident or some hospitalization for her to get help. She will not stay qualified for AL with falls and continued drinking.
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Betsey, has your sister said whether she would like to move in to a facility, even if they will let her in "as is"?
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I have extensive experience in this area. Your sister is an alcoholic, as is my Mother who is age 84. My Mom has lived with me for 13 years. She came to me at 71, drinking nearly a fifth of vodka a day mixed with coffee liquor and milk every day. You see that correctly...nearly a fifth of hard liquor a day. She had persistent diarrhea, ate very little, stayed drunk 24/7 until she ran low, then she would go to the liquor store at 9AM (while still drunk) and filled her car's trunk with booze. I had no idea that the problem was so severe. My husband and I had added a complete apartment onto our home, so she had her 'desired' privacy. No amount of cajoling, etc., could get her to reduce her drinking.

A few years went by ... then one Thanksgiving Eve she was so drunk that she fell and hit her head. We could hear her cries for help and ran to her aid finding her bleeding profusely mumbling something we could not understand. I called for an ambulance which carried her to the hospital for 27 stitches in her scalp. That morning, when she was released she thought life would resume as before. No. I called the Family Crisis Hot Line listed in our phone book and was educated by the counselor that we could take away her car keys thereby limiting her ability to purchase alcohol. (Your state's laws may be different.) As we knew she could not quit 'cold turkey' we offered her the option of providing her with beer and wine. She would have to agree or she would be moved out of our home. For 4 years we brought her a case of beer and 2 bottles of wine per week. This equates to about 7 drinks per day, far less than half of her previous consumption. Recently, we reduced her again to 4 drinks/day, which she agreed to as her liver tests are showing it is compromised.

Your sister can be weaned down to a reasonable level without harming her. Her health and cognizance will improve. Understand though, she will not do this by herself. She needs your help and your strength.

As for AL facilities: I have inquired about their alcohol policies in my state. Most will take alcoholics if they are not aware of severe alcoholism. That is, there are no medical or police records detailing problematic behavior. Understand that they will ask her to leave if she becomes a problem. They do not purchase alcohol for residents. Nor do they allow residents to purchase alcohol for other residents.

Senior alcoholism is a major problem in our country. Doctors do nothing to help. Many senior alcoholics die from the disease as their family members pity them, but in frustration do nothing to help them. If you want to help your sister, start by talking honestly to her. Tell her kindly, yet clearly, she will die if she continues her current behavior. Decide what you can do to help her. Can you take her in and assist her in weaning down? Will she go to AA? BTW: Alcoholics Anonymous has as good a success record as most expensive alcohol rehabs. If your sister wants to live well, she may be motivated to come out of her stupor and learn to drink less.

God Bless your family with strength and perseverance.
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I am struggling to deal with my mother's alcohol consumption - she never drank when my siblings and I were kids. She decided she was entitled to drink once we were all out of the house. She justifies her decision to drink by saying she does not drive, is not responsible for anyone else, and that in retirement, she can do what she wants. She really doesn't hurt anyone but herself by her drinking. I am frustrated because while her alcohol consumption is not good for her -- on the other hand, I don't want to deny her something that makes her happy as her health is failing her. While I wish she didn't drink so much - I feel like she is not an idiot. She knows that increased alcohol consumption isn't good for her. But it's her choice to make. Ugg, this is really hard.
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My mother-in-law was a binge drinker. She would be sober for months and then go WAY off the wagon. When she ended up in the nursing home she kept trying to leave. When they would ask her where she was going she told them, "To get a beer." With our permission we allowed them to give her a short can of beer once a day. That settled her down and made her happy, while keeping her drinking under control. When she was in assisted living I don't know if they did grocery trips or not but she did go for a walk once, got lost and flagged down a police car to take her home. Just thought I'd share.
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