Close Menu

Study shows ‘importance’ of alcohol in care homes

Giving care home residents access to alcoholic drinks is important for improving overall quality of life, according to a new study from the University of Bedfordshire and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) School for Social Care Research funded the study which examined how alcohol can bring numerous benefits to care home residents.

The research was used to develop a series of good practice guidelines, titled Alcohol management in care homes.

It was found that some care homes have a blanket ban on booze, a decision fuelled by safety concerns, including how drinks might interfere with medication. The guidelines argued that a prohibition policy “conflicts with the fundamental principle that people in care homes should have as much freedom, choice and control over their lives as possible”.

However, most care homes surveyed did allow residents some access to drinks, either through an in-home bar or a drinks trolley pushed around at meal times. As one manager cited in the study put it, a resident wanting a drop of something is “no different to the person who wants scones and cream twice a week”.

One resident in the report complained: “We have opportunities when we have parties but they’re not often enough.”

It was suggested that consumption remains in line with the recommended level for elderly people of 14 units a week. The guidelines also noted the importance of monitoring consumption, especially for residents with neurodegenerative conditions who struggle to keep track of their drinking, and those with alcohol dependencies.

For those who did drink, the study highlighted the need to adjust how they drank to their current condition, as one care worker explained: “One lady likes to have a brandy before she goes to bed and maybe a year or so ago she used to have that brandy in her chair but got a little wobbly on the way to bed, so now she has it when she gets into bed… She’s over 100-years-old, we’re not going to say no.”

Another resident in an electric wheelchair was escorted to the local pub by staff over several weeks before they then allowed him to go on his own (the pub staff were told who to call in case there was an issue).

The community aspect of residents gathering to have a drink is also significant, especially given the loneliness many elderly people experience – one care home in Worcestershire even opened a pub in order to provide a social space and foster a sense of togetherness.

Dr. Sarah Wadd said of the research: “People living in care homes should be supported to have as much choice and control of their lives as possible. It is important to remember that just as health has value, so too does pleasure. The goal is to find a balance between minimising risk and maximising quality of life. Our research has shown that this isn’t always happening in practice. We have produced good practice guidance for care staff and a guide for care home residents and the general public.”

CQC’s Amy Hopwood said that it shone a light “on the importance of care homes safely supporting their residents to continue drinking alcohol if they wish to”.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No