Having a glass of wine with a meal is a pleasure that many of us enjoy. Why should seniors be robbed of that pleasure the moment they enter aged care?

Well, they need not be.

Residents should be able to enjoy a safe level of alcohol, including wine, in aged care facilities, Dr Harry Nespolon, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, told HelloCare.

Aged care residents should be able to enjoy their lives, he said. “They’re not in prison.”

“A little tipple is okey-dokey,” he said.

“You’ve just got to be sensible about it,” he said.

Dr Nespolon recommends a “common sense approach” and says residents should be carefully assessed before they are served alcohol in an aged care facility.

Ideally residents are free to make their own choices

Serving wine to residents in aged care facilities reflects a person-centered approach to care.

It means that residents are given the freedom to make the decision themselves about whether or not they wish to drink wine. The decision is not made for them by a management that places a ban on alcohol.

We must also be mindful of the fact that aged care facilities are homes. If a resident has had a glass of wine with their dinner every evening before they moved into care, they should be enabled to continue to carry on that routine while living in aged care.

Continuing familiar routines and rituals can help residents adjust to living in aged care facilities, and can also add to their quality of life while in care.

How much alcohol should be served?

Many aged care facilities do serve wine with lunch and dinner, and many also have happy hour once a week, but as with all alcohol service and consumption, there need to be some limitations and a careful approach.

Dr Nespolon said the amount of alcohol served in aged care facilities should reflect the government’s Alcohol Guidelines, which recommend that you should drink no more than two standard drinks a day.

What is a standard drink?

A standard glass of wine is 150ml, which amounts to about half a glass.

A standard full-strength beer is 285ml – a measure commonly known as a ‘middy’.

But Dr Nespolon noted that safe drinking levels differ for every person, and older people can be particularly sensitive to the effects of alcohol.

Older people often eat less, they may weigh less, and they may have cognitive changes that inhibit their ability to cope with alcohol consumption.

Some residents may be taking medication that has contraindications for consumption of alcohol.

Dr Nespolon said before residents are served an alcoholic drink, they should be carefully assessed for their ability to safely consume it alcohol.

But be wise to the risks

Dr Nespolon acknowledged there are some risks associated with serving alcohol in aged care facilities.

Of course, overconsumption of alcohol could be a problem, but that’s is hardly limited to nursing homes, Dr Nespolon said.

Consumption of alcohol could also make people become psychotic or violent, which could pose a risk to the safety of both the resident themself or staff or visitors in the vicinity.

“So it’s not without its risk,” Mr Nespolon said, but if residents are appropriately assessed beforehand it should be perfectly okay, he said.

Please note: This image used to illustrate this article does not represent actual people or events. Image: iStock.

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