Program tackles ‘risky drinking’ among oldies

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No false assumptions: Peninsula Health’s Older Wiser Lifestyles team leader Katherine Walsh with a patient.

No false assumptions: Peninsula Health’s Older Wiser Lifestyles team leader Katherine Walsh with a patient.

AN “alarming increase” in alcohol and other drug-related problems by elderly residents is being tackled by healthcare professionals in what’s billed as an Australian first.

Peninsula Health’s Alcohol and Other Drug Services Program manager Stephen Bright will present the guide at a conference, Thursday.

“When we think about who experiences harm caused by alcohol, most people think about young people,” Dr Bright said.

“However, data shows the rate of risky drinking among young people has been decreasing, while risky drinking among older adults has been increasing.

“There is a similar trend with regard to the consumption of cannabis. This is very concerning.”

Dr Bright says “false assumptions” lead to older residents feeling they can’t ask for help. “Older adults are less likely to engage with traditional treatment services,” he said.

“They may perceive such services to be for younger people, or lacking mobility access or an appropriate ambience. Overseas, numerous services have been developed specifically for older adults.”

Dr Bright said Peninsula Health’s Older Wiser Lifestyles (OWL) – an older-adult-specific treatment service – provided early intervention through community development and age-specific treatment services.

Failing to tackle this growing issue now will have a major impact on future healthcare costs – especially given the rapidly ageing population, he said.

OWL team leader Katherine Walsh said: “Older adults represent a growing population who are experiencing a range of AOD-related harms that are often very specific to this population.

“For example, they often take medications that adversely interact with alcohol, or have medical co-morbidities (more than one illness) that are exacerbated by alcohol, yet healthcare practitioners often do not ask them about their use of alcohol or drugs based on false assumptions.

“Not asking about drug use and drinking patterns and levels can result in healthcare professionals treating what they believe to be the symptoms of a medical problem, when, in fact, the symptoms are actually related to the use of alcohol or other drugs.”

Peninsula Health partnered with Flinders University to develop the first ever Australian guide for healthcare professionals.

Call 9784 8109 or see olderwiseraod.net

First published in the Frankston Times – 30 November 2015

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