I have a grandmother that is struggling with dementia and alcohol abuse. Within the last year things have escalated with her behavior. She has gotten verbally and physically abusive. My mother and other family members are hesitant to find her treatment. All of our family is in denial and no one wants to care for her anymore. I’m not sure what options there are for my grandmother. I’m looking for support or help with what we can to do help her.
Thanks for writing in.
Alcohol abuse can lead to dementia, and the symptoms of an alcohol-related dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease. I do find, however, that many persons I’ve worked with like your grandmother are prone to personality change and volatile behavior. Also, many alcoholics have histories of falls from blackouts or intoxication. This can cause further damage to the brain.
Here are my recommendations:
First things first: has she received a good medical evaluation, hopefully from a neurologist? Have you considered finding a geriatric psychiatrist or a psychiatrist with good experience with elders? Do your best to get a good medical team together to help you assess where things stand and to see if there are any medications that can help.
Is she still drinking? Try to control her access to alcohol to prevent further damage. Many families will substitute non-alcoholic beer or wine. With her dementia, she may not know the difference! Ask friends and family to support your goals by not bringing her liquor or taking her out to bars or restaurants that serve alcohol.
With all your life challenges I’m guessing that the family is pretty burnt out. You may want to find a good in-home worker or begin looking for a local day center or assisted living program. Sometimes persons like your grandmother are nicer to non-family members. A change in environment might help her, and you.
Finally, I’d recommend seeking out a local Alzheimer’s support group. They can provide you with social support and help you identify additional local resources that can help.