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What Caregivers Should Know About Alcohol use and Alzheimer's Disease

If you are a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s, you may be concerned about the effects of alcohol on the disease.  When alcohol use is being discussed, circumstances such as the severity of the dementia, and the amount of alcohol being consumed should be considered, among other factors.

Alcohol Consumption and Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

In the early stages of AD dementia, a glass of wine a day with a meal may not cause much harm at all.  That is, provided your loved is NOT taking medications that interfere with alcohol, and that the treating physician is in agreement.  To further complicate the issue, consider that many individuals with moderate dementia may not remember how much they drank and may inadvertently partake in heavy drinking without even realizing it.

It is also important to note that some research findings point to the fact that drinking on a daily basis is not recommended for an older person in the senior years who has never been a regular drinker (even in small amounts). Studies showed that alcohol may have less of an adverse effect on seniors who have always been moderate drinkers, compared to those who refrained from drinking when they were young, then start drinking in the later years.

Alcohol and Brain Health

Alcohol adversely affects cognition and memory. In fact, according to CNN.com, one study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International conference, indicated that the more often a senior (65 or older) binge drinks, the more likely he/she is to experience cognitive decline and memory deficits.  Dr. Iain Lang, of Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, led a study which revealed that in a group of 5,000 seniors; those who binged 2 times a month were 147% more likely to experience cognitive decline and 146% more apt to have memory problems than the group that didn’t drink.

Armed with this information it’s easy to understand why drinking alcohol may not be the best idea for people with dementia due to AD.  If you are concerned about a loved one with AD due to alcohol consumption be sure to discuss the issue with the physician.  Reaching out to others dealing with similar concerns, by joining an AD caregiver’s support group, is one way to get ideas and feedback on how to deal with the problem.  If you suspect that a loved one has a severe drinking problem, professional intervention should be considered. 

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