Older drinkers are ‘neglected’ in Welsh alcohol abuse strategies

AGEING binge drinkers are being neglected by Wales’ alcohol abuse programmes, it is claimed today.

Age Cymru said the Assembly Government’s drink strategies were failing to meet the needs of over-50s.

Research published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists warns as people get older they become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol.

“We also react more slowly and tend to lose our sense of balance. So, even if we drink the same amount of alcohol, as we get older it is likely to affect us more than younger people,” it says.

The safe drinking levels for older people are probably less than the 14 units of alcohol a week for women and 21 units for men.

About one in six older men and one in 15 older women drink enough alcohol to harm themselves.

Age Cymru’s health initiatives officer, Rhian Pearce said: “Alcohol misuse strategies in Wales are largely associated with concerns around binge drinking by young people, while older people’s needs receive little focus.

“Age Cymru wants the Welsh Assembly to take a broader view of alcohol abuse in Wales.

“Alcohol abuse is a problem for people of all ages, but it is more likely to go unrecognised among older people.”

About a third of older people with drinking problems develop them in later life, often because of factors such as bereavement, social isolation or physical ill health, she said.

“Alcohol abuse among older people has also been shown to contribute to an increased risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and dementia: there is a clear need for government action.”

Age Cymru wants the Welsh Assembly Government to issue clear guidelines over safe levels of drinking for older people. Health promotion for older people should include information to improve understanding of the potential problems relating to alcohol misuse, while support and training should be provided for health and social care professionals.

Links between specialist addiction services and other health and social care services should be improved, including improved access to screening for older patients, they said.

Alcohol can also add to the effect of some medications, eg. painkillers or sleeping tablets and reduce the effect of others, like medication to thin the blood (warfarin). This can increase the risk of bleeding or developing a clot.

A WAG spokesman said: “Our strategy to tackle alcohol misuse is aimed at both young and old.

“We have been working to educate people of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and remind people of the impact of drinking at home. Our Know the Units campaign highlights the need to drink sensibly.

“Nurses in maxillofacial and trauma departments are also being trained to give advice to binge-drinkers on sensible alcohol consumption.”